Fort Worth news conference: Fort Worth police chief vows Aaron Dean, officer who killed black woman in her home, will be held accountable

Interim Fort Worth Police Chief Ed Kraus vowed a white ex-police officer would be held responsible for killing a 28-year-old black woman in her home over the weekend. Aaron Dean, who resigned Monday before he could be released from the police force, was in custody after being arrested and charged with the murder of Atatiana Jefferson’s death.

Atatiana Jefferson

Lee Merritt / CBS DFW

Police said officers went to Jefferson’s home early Saturday morning for a wellness check after her neighbor called the department’s emergency number and said the front door of the house had been left open. The department said an officer sensed a threat outside the home and fired a shot that hit Jefferson through a window in the home. The body camera video shows that Dean shot less than a second after asking Jefferson to show her hands and that he never identified himself as a cop.

Family attorney Lee Merritt said Jefferson got up late to play video games with her 8-year-old nephew and left the door open to let in the fall breeze when they heard a noise outside. Merritt said the child told him his aunt would not let him go to the window to investigate but go herself.

According to a recent affidavit, Jefferson took her pistol from her purse as she walked to the window. The boy said she raised the gun and pointed to the window when she was shot.

During a press conference on Tuesday, Kraus again apologized for Jefferson’s death.

“There is absolutely no excuse for this incident and the person responsible will be held accountable,” said Kraus.

Interim Police Chief Ed Kraus speaks at a press conference at the Bob Bolen Public Safety Complex in Fort Worth, Texas on October 14, 2019 about the death of Atatiana Jefferson by a police officer.

Interim Police Chief Ed Kraus speaks at a press conference October 14, 2019 in Fort Worth, Texas.

AP Photo / David Kent

Merritt said Jefferson legally owns the gun and is approved for carrying. Speaking generally before the child’s account became public, Kraus said Monday that it would make sense for Jefferson to pick up a gun if she believed someone was roaming her yard and trading so many homeowners in Texas. Kraus said he regretted circulating a picture of the gun found in the house, which Merritt said was an attempt to blame the victim.

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Jefferson’s family are relieved that Dean was arrested but said more needs to be done to switch police departments, CBS news correspondent Omar Villafranca reported Tuesday. Kraus vowed that the department would work to “serve you better”. He said the department had set itself the goal of engaging a group of third parties to evaluate policies, practices and training “to make sure we are above best practice standards”.

aaron-dean-mugshot.jpg

Former Fort Worth Police Officer Aaron Dean was charged with the murder of Atatiana Jefferson.

Tarrant County Jail

On Tuesday, Kraus said he couldn’t explain what Dean saw when he opened fire because the officer hadn’t spoken to investigators. According to the affidavit, a second officer was standing who replied that Dean was standing between her and the door so that she could only see Jefferson’s face through the window.

The warrant states that Dean never announced his presence, even after walking through a gate and entering the back yard. When asked why the officers didn’t report or knock on the door, Kraus said the officers responded to a call with an “open structure” and might have reacted differently if they believed the house would be broken into.

The warrant states that Dean declined to be interviewed on the day of the shooting, and his attorney said he would provide a written statement later. When Dean resigned on Monday, the document said he did not make a written statement.

Kraus urged the community not to judge the rest of the department by the actions of one officer. When asked about morale within the police force, he said the officers praised him for acting quickly to condemn Dean’s actions.

Kraus got emotional talking about how the shooting would affect the relationship between the police department and the community, and the press conference tore up and broke off.

“It’s very emotional because the officials try every day to make this city better,” said Kraus. “… Some of our officers who are out there every weekend and most days of the week trying to build these relationships, I have compared it to a bunch of ants building an anthill and then someone comes with a hose and washes it gone and you just have to start over and build again. I think that will be all thank you, “he said, abruptly leaving the podium.

On Twitter, Merritt called for justice for Jefferson and changes in the police department.

“We need to bring this to vigorous law enforcement and fair conviction,” Merritt said. “The city of Fort Worth has a lot to do to reform a brutal police culture.”

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