‘Callous, deliberate and unreasonably indifferent!’ Family of Atatiana Jefferson sues white cop for ‘not identifying himself’ before shooting her through the window of her own home while she played with her nephew
The family of Atatiana Jefferson, 28, filed a wrongful death lawsuit against The City of Fort Worth and the officer who shot her,
Aaron Dean Dean, 35, shot dead Jefferson through a backyard window of her home on Oct 12, 2019, while conducting a welfare check
Neighbor called a non-emergency 911 number because Jefferson’s front door was left open that night
Lawsuit claimed Dean never identified himself as police before walking around her premises and opening fire
Dean ‘intentionally and with conscious, callous, deliberate and unreasonably indifference’ disregarded Jefferson’s Fourth Amendment rights, lawsuit said
He resigned from the police department before being indicted on murder charge
The need to expose how a welfare check by a former officer with the Fort Worth police department turned into an instant shoot on sight operation is behind the wrongful death lawsuit field by the family of Atatiana Jefferson against the white former Fort Worth officer who shot and killed Jefferson inside her own home last year during a welfare check.
According to the family, former officer Aaron Dean failed to identify himself as law enforcement before creeping into her backyard and opening fire through a window.
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Dean’s approach to his job, the lawsuit said, Dean not only caused the 28-year-old’s untimely death, but ‘demonstrated a deliberate indifference and disregard’ to her Fourth Amendment rights.’
‘Defendant…intentionally and with conscious, callous, deliberate and unreasonably indifference deprived Atatiana Carr, aka Atatiana Jefferson, of her constitutional rights,’ the lawsuit states.
The lawsuit also listed the City of Fort Worth, including the Fort Worth Police Department, as defendants for allegedly fostering an environment that accepted such behavior.
‘Defendant the City of Fort Worth Police Department adopted, implemented, supplemented, reinforced, and promulgated policies, customs, and practices, as set forth above, all of which were a proximate cause and a moving force in the death of Atatiana Carr a/k/a Atatiana Jefferson,’ the lawsuit read.
On October 12, 2019, Jefferson was reportedly babysitting and playing video games with her eight-year-old nephew inside her home.
A neighbor had called a non-emergency line requesting a welfare check because the home’s front door had been left open late into the night.
Fort Worth Police Department Chief Ed Kraus said Dean was dispatched to investigate an ‘open structure call,’ a situation which could mean a door left open by accident or a burglary in process.
‘Dean, immediately, within seconds of seeing the resident inside of her home; shot her dead through a window of the home,’ the lawsuit read.
‘Defendant Dean in his prowl around the backyard of her home, caused Atatiana fear and uncertainty. Dean shot Atatiana, causing pain and suffering. Dean failed to render medical aide to Atatiana.’
Those claims matched edited footage the Fort Worth Police Department released from Dean’s body camera that night.
Footage showed Dean walking up to the open front door, where lights were on and toys were scattered on the ground, but he does not knock to alert Jefferson of his presence.
Instead, he walked through her garage to her backyard while shining a flashlight into windows and darkened areas.
Dean glanced into a window before he shouted ‘put your hands up, show me your hands’ and shot into the window. He was not heard identifying himself as an officer during the footage.
The lawsuit described Dean’s conduct as ‘unreasonable,’ and said Forth Worth officials knew or should have known Dean ‘exhibited a pattern of escalating encounters with the public in violation of well-established police practices.’
Dean was hired by the department in 2017 and commissioned in April.
‘…Dean acted contrary to law, and intentionally, willfully, wantonly, and unreasonably deprived Atatiana Carr a/k/a Atatiana Jefferson of her rights, privileges, and immunities secured by the U.S. Constitution,’ per the lawsuit.
A gun was found in Jefferson’s home after the shooting, but police and city leaders have said it was not relevant to her death.
Kraus said Dean violated a series of police policies and it was understandable that Atatiana would draw her gun in such a situation.
‘We have completed an initial review of the case, and based on the evidence we intend to ask the Grand Jury for an indictment of murder against Aaron Dean,’ Tarrant County Criminal District Attorney Sharen Wilson said in a statement in December.
‘We will prosecute this case to the fullest extent of the law.’
Jefferson was among a number of black Americans to die at the hands of law enforcement this year, including George Floyd and Breonna Taylor.
Her death happened just 40 miles east of Dallas, where former police officer Amber Guyger shot dead Botham Jean while he was inside his own apartment in 2018.
Outrage across the country sparked demonstrations over the summer as the United States began a reckoning against the law enforcement institution.
Dean resigned from the department shortly after Jefferson’s death and was indicted on a murder charge in Tarrant County. He is currently out on a $200,000 bond and expected to start trial in August 2021.
Jefferson’s relatives accused Dean of violating the pre-med graduate’s constitutional rights, assault and battery, as well as willful and wanton conduct.
The City of Forth Worth and the police department also, faced institutional liability and a supervisory liability claim from Jefferson’s relatives who have requested compensatory and punitive damages.