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Who is Aaron Dean? Former Fort Worth officer found guilty of manslaughter in 2019 death of Atatiana Jefferson

WFAA took a look at Dean's personnel files and videos of his job interview with Fort Worth P.D. to shed light on his past.

FORT WORTH, Texas — Former Fort Worth police officer Aaron Dean was found guilty on Dec. 15, 2022 by a Tarrant County jury in the October 2019 death of Atatiana Jefferson. 

Dean was facing murder charges after he shot and killed Jefferson while responding to an "open structure" call that night. He was convicted of a lesser charge of manslaughter. 

So who is Dean? WFAA took a look at his personnel files and videos of his job interview with Fort Worth PD to shed light on his past.

Dean is the only Tarrant County officer to go on trial for murder while on duty.  

He shot and killed Jefferson in the early morning hours on Oct. 12.

Much of what happened was captured on body camera footage.

In that footage, you see Dean walking up to the house with his weapon drawn. He doesn’t identify himself.

But he does yell “put your hands up, show me your hands.”

Then, within seconds of Jefferson walking up to the window, she is shot.

“The officer did not announce he was a police officer prior to shooting. What the officer observed and why he did not announce ‘police’ will be addressed as the investigation continues,” said a Fort Worth Police Sergeant.

Dean and his partner were responding to a non-emergency call to Jefferson’s home.

James Smith, Jefferson’s neighbor, called a non-emergency number.

He asked that someone check on Jefferson’s home because the door was open in the early morning hours. He said he was stunned by what happened.

”I’m devastated because people say James it’s not your fault. It’s not your fault but I made the call. I made the call because I thought they were going to do what I called them to do, check on my neighbor, and they didn’t do that,” says Smith.

At the time of the shooting, Dean had been a Fort Worth Officer for only 18 months, but had been a Tarrant County resident much longer.

He grew up in Arlington, one of six children. He and several of his siblings attended UT-Arlington. His parents still call the city home.

But not much is known about Dean’s family life. He’s not married and none of his family members have spoken publicly since the shooting.

Judge George Gallagher has placed a gag order on Dean, his attorneys, prosecutors and all potential witnesses so they can’t talk about the case.

Fort Worth police released Dean’s personnel file after the shooting, shedding some light on his life prior to him joining the department.

It shows that two supervisors during his training were concerned about Dean getting tunnel vision and not observing everything around him.

One of them wrote “he will be so engrossed with what he’s doing, he gets tunnel vision and will not hear what’s being instructed.”

The department also released video of his job interview where he was asked ”Will you be able to kill somebody? Yes, I have no problem.”

Dean applied to be an officer with Fort Worth once before in 2015 but withdrew that application.

”I did not feel like I was up to standard,” said Dean.

He was working as an engineer when he decided to apply again a couple of years later.  

On that application and in his interview, he said that while he was a student at UT Arlington in 2004, he was given a citation by Arlington Police after he touched a female student’s breast while in the library and then asked she not report it to police. 

On tape, he says ”I was in a very conservative church at the time, I worried I would be tarred and feathered.”

Fort Worth police said in a statement they weighed the assault charge when deciding to hire him ”It was given significant scrutiny during the hiring process.”

He also had two run-ins with police in 2005 involving an airsoft pistol he carried on his hip that made one restaurant customer nervous.

Dean wrote, “an officer responded and gave me a stern warning for my recklessness and disturbance of everyone’s day.”

Fort Worth Police moved forward with hiring Dean in April 2018.

By October 2019, he was charged with murder for killing Jefferson as she played video games with her nephew Zion who is expected to testify during the trial.

Her death sparked outrage and protests across the city.

”I’m here to let you know your city is in pain and your city is hurting,” said Betsy Price, former Fort Worth Mayor.

It prompted apologies from Fort Worth police and the former chief.

”I realized that no action we take can replace the loss. I’m deeply sorry for what occurred,” said Ed Kraus, former Fort Worth Police Chief.

Dean shot within 2 seconds after seeing Atatiana come to the window to see who was outside. At the time, he said he felt an imminent threat.

In his job interview, he was asked if there was a time to fight.

”And so absolutely, if there’s an imminent threat, I think it is necessary to defend myself,” said Dean.

Dean’s lawyers have showed hints of what their defense will be. They plan on showing that at the time of the shooting Dean felt his life was in danger because Jefferson did have a weapon when she approached the window.

Jefferson had the legal right to have a gun in her home and prosecutors say she had no idea Dean was an officer when she approached the window.

After five days of testimony during the December trial, a jury took more than 13 hours to deliberate before returning a guilty of manslaughter verdict on Dec. 15. 

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