A Texas jury on Tuesday sentenced former police officer Aaron Dean to more than 11 years in prison for the October 2019 shooting death of a woman inside a home. File Photo courtesy of Fort Worth Police Department
Dec. 20 (UPI) -- A Texas jury on Tuesday sentenced a former police officer to more than 11 years in prison for the October 2019 shooting death of a woman inside a home.
The jury did not explain its reasons in handing down the 11-year, 10-month, 11-day sentence to former Fort Worth Police Department officer Aaron Dean.
Dean fatally shot Atatiana Jefferson inside her mother's home in Fort Worth, Texas. The then-police officer was responding to a call of an open door at the home about 2 a.m. on Oct. 12, 2019.
The trial got underway earlier this month.
Jefferson, 28, was inside the home with her 11-year-old nephew Zion Carr when Dean, standing outside the home, shot through a window and killed her.
The shooting sparked racial justice protests in the Black community in Fort Worth. Dean is White and Jefferson was Black.
Dean's lawyers argued their client was doing his job when he arrived at Jefferson's mother's home on a welfare check and called the shooting a "tragic accident."
Prosecutors countered that Dean acted maliciously and that Jefferson was within her rights to pick up her gun inside the home when she heard the officers outside.
Fort Worth Police admitted during the trial that neither Dean nor his partner ever identified themselves as police officers before the shooting. The officer's body camera video showed him firing within seconds of seeing Jefferson in the window.
Dean testified during the trial in his own defense. He said that he saw a gun through the window before firing his service weapon. However, he also said he never told his partner that he'd seen a gun.
The 38-year-old must serve half the sentence before he can apply for parole. The length of the sentence also means he is not eligible for bond during any appeals process.
Prosecutors originally sought murder charges, but the jury rejected that in favor of manslaughter, a second-degree felony, leaving them to hand down up to a maximum of a 20-year prison sentence.
Dean resigned from the Police Department before he was originally charged.
His lawyers had argued for probation, while prosecutors asked for the maximum length of incarceration.
"You shot a Black woman to death in front of an 8-year-old child," Jefferson's sister Ashley Carr told the court in her victim impact statement.
"You spent the last three years rehearsing your excuses."