A white former police officer will stand trial on MondayResponding to a call about an open front door through the back window of her Texas home in a case that has been delayed for years.
Fort Worth officer Aaron Dean quit and was charged with murder two days laterIn October 2019. Jefferson was playing video games with his then-8-year-old nephew, who later told authorities that his aunt pulled out a gun after hearing suspicious noises behind the house. Body-camera footage showed that Dean did not identify himself to police.
At the time, the case was unusual for the relative speed with which, amid public outcry, the Fort Worth Police Department released body-camera video and arrested Dean. Since then, his case has been repeatedly adjourned amid lawyer wrangling, the terminal illness of his lead counsel and the COVID-19 pandemic.
In contrast, former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin was tried and convicted of the murder of George Floyd a year and a half ago. Yet seven months after Jefferson, Floyd was killed, in a case that sparked global protests over racial injustice.
Dean, who has pleaded not guilty, has been released on $200,000 bond. Now 38, he is accused of murdering Jefferson on October 12, 2019, after a neighbor called a non-emergency police line to report that the front door to Jefferson’s home was open.
Bodycam video shows Dean walking to the door of the house where Jefferson was taking care of his nephew. He then went around the house, entered the backyard through a gate and fired after a split second through the glass after yelling at Jefferson inside to show his hand.
Dean is not heard in the video identifying himself to police and it is unclear whether he knew Jefferson was armed. That question, and possible testimony from another officer who was there that night, are likely to be key points of the trial.
Jefferson was considering a career in medicine and moved into his mother’s home months before the shooting as the older woman’s health declined.
His family members have filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the former officer and the city., The federal lawsuit states that Dean used excessive force in the fatal shooting “intentionally and with conscious, rash, deliberate and unwarranted indifference.”
The suit also states that the City of Fort Worth “knew or should have known that defendant Aaron Dean displayed a pattern of escalating encounters with the public,” and failed to adequately train or supervise police officers. have failed.
His killing shattered the trust the police were trying to build with communities of color in Fort Worth, a city of 935,000 about 30 miles (50 kilometers) west of Dallas, which has long faced racial discrimination. There were complaints of uneven policing and excessive force.
The shooting drew a swift rebuke from the city’s then-police chief and Republican mayor, who called the circumstances “truly unimaginable” at the time and said Jefferson having a gun was “irrelevant”.
Dean’s legal team used those comments in unsuccessful attempts to move the case out of Fort Worth, drawing media attention and claiming statements from public officials would bias the jury pool.
As jury selection was about to begin last week, Dean’s defense attorney, Jim Lane, died. After years of delay, District Judge George Gallagher went ahead anyway and after days of questioning potential jurors, a panel of 12 jurors and two alternates was selected on Friday. Eight were men, six were women and none of them were black.
The first day of Dean’s trial ends early so the contestants can attend Lane’s funeral.