By Stacy M. Brown, NNPA Newswire Senior National Correspondent
Aaron Dean, the white police officer who shot and killed Atatiana Jefferson in her home in Texas, has received an 11-year prison sentence following his conviction on manslaughter charges.
Dean,38, counted among the officers responding to an “open structure” call at Jefferson’s home in October 2019.
Jefferson, 28, left her door open while she and her 8-year-old nephew, Zion, were inside.
Noticing the open door, a neighbor called police for a welfare check.
Jefferson and her nephew were playing video games that night and Jefferson opened the doors to allow smoke from hamburgers to dissipate after they burned.
Zion, now 11, testified that he was in the room when his aunt was shot.
After the sentence was pronounced, one of Jefferson’s sisters, Ashley Carr, read statements, including one from her sister, Amber Carr, Zion’s mother.
Amber Carr said Jefferson, who planned to go to medical school, “had big dreams and goals” and that her son “feels he is responsible to fill the whole role of his aunt, and he has the weight of the world on his shoulders.”
Ashley Carr called her sister “a beautiful ray of sunshine.”
“She was in her home, which should have been the safest place for her to be, and yet turned out to be the most dangerous,” she said.
The manslaughter conviction allowed the jury to sentence the disgraced former officer to 11 years rather than the 20 years he could have served on murder charges.
Body-camera footage revealed that Dean and his partner did not identify themselves as police officers.
Dean and Officer Carol Darch testified that they thought the house might have been burglarized and quietly moved into the fenced-off backyard, looking for signs of forced entry.
Dean drew his service weapon and fired through the window a split-second after shouting at Jefferson to show her hands.
Dean testified that he had no choice when he saw Jefferson pointing a gun at him. But under cross examination he admitted to several errors and conceded that actions before and after the shooting were “more bad police work.”
Zion testified that Jefferson took out her gun because she thought there was an intruder in the backyard.
Ashley Carr said the family wanted the officer sentenced to more time but was still pleased with the 11 years he received.
“Eleven years, that’s the same age as Zion,” Carr said. “Ten months, 12 days, that’s the day that it happened. It’s a message in this. It might not be the message that we wanted and the whole dream, but it’s some of it.”