A former Fort Worth police officer who was found guilty of manslaughter last week for killing a woman by firing a shot through a window of her home was sentenced on Tuesday to almost 12 years in prison.
The former officer, Aaron Dean, 38, was sentenced to 11 years, 10 months and 12 days in prison by a jury in Tarrant County District Court in the October 2019 killing of Atatiana Jefferson, 28. He could have received a sentence ranging from probation to 20 years in prison.
The officer, who is white, was responding to a call from a concerned neighbor who reported that doors to Ms. Jefferson’s house were open late at night. Ms. Jefferson was playing video games with her 8-year-old nephew and had left the doors open to ventilate smoke after burning hamburgers.
Ms. Jefferson, hearing a strange noise outside the house, grabbed the gun she kept in her purse and went to look out her bedroom window. Mr. Dean yelled at her to put her arms up and immediately fired a single shot through her window, body camera footage released two days after the shooting showed.
“She was in her home, which should have been the safest place for her to be,” her sister, Ashley Carr, said in court, reading a victim impact statement. “And yet turned out to be the most dangerous.”
Mr. Dean resigned from the police force days after the shooting, hours before being charged with murder. Miles Brissette, a lawyer who represented Mr. Dean, did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Tuesday.
“The verdict and sentencing won’t bring Atatiana Jefferson back,” Sharen Wilson, the Tarrant County criminal district attorney, said in a written statement. “This trial was difficult for all involved, including our community. My sympathies remain with Atatiana’s family and friends and I pray they find peace.”
Resolution of the case had been delayed for years by the coronavirus pandemic, personal tragedies and legal maneuvers by the defense.
Before starting with the Fort Worth Police Department, Mr. Dean was screened by a psychologist who deemed him unfit to be an officer, Ashlea Deener, a Tarrant County assistant criminal district attorney, said in closing arguments. The psychologist said Mr. Dean minimized his own behavior, denied flaws and had an unrealistic view of himself.
Mr. Dean appealed the assessment and was able to join the force after further evaluations.
Ms. Jefferson’s nephew, Zion Carr, testified that he thought it was a dream when he saw his aunt collapse. “She was crying and just shaking,” said Zion, who had recently moved in with Ms. Jefferson, whom he called Aunt Tay, and his grandmother.
Ms. Jefferson sold medical pharmaceutical equipment and had a goal of becoming a doctor. One of her sisters said that she flatlined at the hospital four times because of panic attacks after Ms. Jefferson’s death. Ms. Jefferson’s father died at 58 after having heart complications and cardiac arrest, and a hospital spokesman attributed it to the stress of the loss.
“Atatiana’s family, they received their life sentence on Oct. 12, 2019,” Ms. Deener said. “They received their life sentence without her. They’ll never get her back.”
Ms. Deener and Dale Smith, an assistant Tarrant County criminal district attorney, spoke to the jury on Monday, urging them to choose a prison sentence over probation.
“Atatiana, she’ll never be married, she’ll never have a family,” Mr. Smith said. “She’ll never get to be a doctor. She’ll never grow old.”