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Jury sentences Aaron Dean to nearly 12 years in prison for fatal shooting of Atatiana Jefferson

Aaron Dean, a white man wearing a dark suit, sits in a courtroom, looking to his right. A dark silhouette of another person partially blocks the left part of the photo.
Amanda McCoy
Fort Worth Star-Telegram
Aaron Dean looks to the gallery before the punishment phase of his trial continued Monday, December 19, 2022, at Tarrant County’s 396th District Court. Dean was found guilty of manslaughter in the shooting death of Atatiana Jefferson in 2019.

Dean was convicted of manslaughter for shooting and killing Atatiana Jefferson in her home in 2019. He was on duty as a police officer at the time.

Story updated 12/20/22 at 3:50 p.m.

Former Fort Worth police officer Aaron Dean has been sentenced to 11 years, 10 months and 12 days in prison for the manslaughter of Atatiana Jefferson.

Dean shot Jefferson through her bedroom window while responding to a call about open doors at her home. The last part of his sentence resonates with the date of that call: Oct. 12, 2019.

If sentenced to 10 years or less, Dean would have been eligible for probation. He will be eligible for parole after he's served half his sentence.

The jury deliberated Dean's sentence over two days. After the judge announced the sentence on Tuesday, Jefferson's family members took the stand to address Dean themselves.

Ashley Carr, Jefferson's sister, told Dean she never looked forward to talking to him. She felt a tinge of jealousy seeing his family there with him, she said.

"I have loathed the idea of you with your family during the holiday seasons for the last three years. Today, I have just arrived at pity," she said.

Dean will never "truly repent," Carr said.

"I pity you for your ignorance. You do not know enough to be ashamed," she said.

During the trial, Dean gave himself a "B" grade for his actions the night he shot Jefferson. He had no visible reaction to Carr's statements, and his family left the courthouse without comment.

Carr also said that she still believes Dean murdered her sister. On Thursday, a Tarrant County jury convicted Dean of manslaughter, a lesser crime than his original charge of murder.

Dean is white, and Jefferson was Black. Her name is often brought up alongside names like George Floyd and Botham Jean.

Atatiana Jefferson, a Black woman wearing black glasses and a teal shirt, smiles for a photograph with a young boy who makes a silly face. She's sitting in a restaurant and flipping through a menu.
Amanda McCoy
Fort Worth Star-Telegram, Pool
A photograph of Atatiana Jefferson was submitted as evidence during her sister Ashley Carr’s testimony on Wednesday, December 7, 2022, in Fort Worth.

Fort Worth City Council member Chris Nettles spoke to the press at the courthouse after the sentencing. Dean should have gotten a harsher sentence, Nettles said.

"Every life matters. Especially Black lives," Nettles said.

Nettles was one of the many people sworn into the case as a witness and placed under a gag order, meaning they were not allowed to speak about the case. Nettles released a statement after the Dean verdict andmay be held in contempt of court, alongside Mayor Mattie Parker.

Their hearing is scheduled for January.

Chris Nettles, a Black man with black frame glasses and long dreads, speaks in front of some microphones. He's wearing a camo print Dallas sweatshirt.
Miranda Suarez
Fort Worth City Council member Chris Nettles addresses the press after former Fort Worth police officer Aaron Dean's sentencing. Nettles campaigned on getting justice for Atatiana Jefferson, the woman Dean shot and killed on Oct. 12, 2019.

Dean's sentence is a "sigh of relief" that could signal the beginning of a healing process, Nettles said.

Part of that process should be police reform, he added. According to a recent report from a panel of law enforcement experts, the Fort Worth Police Department has a worrying trend of aggression and unnecessary violence, especially toward people of color,

"We are far, far away seeing some resolve happening in the city of Fort Worth," he said. "Hopefully this is a pivotal moment that we can make the changes."

Dean testified during trial he thought Jefferson's house was being burglarized. Dean and his partner went into Jefferson's backyard, saw Jefferson holding a gun through the window and shot in self-defense, he said.

The prosecution argued there's no evidence Dean saw that gun, and Jefferson had the right to pick up a gun and defend her home.

Nothing was wrong inside the home, prosecutors said. Jefferson was up late playing video games with her 8-year-old nephew.

"This verdict and sentence won't bring Atatiana Jefferson back," said Sharen Wilson, Tarrant County district attorney. "This trial was difficult for all involved, including our community. My sympathies remain with Atatiana's family and friends, and I pray they find peace."

Wilson said the trial was not about politics or race.

"If someone breaks the law, they have to be held accountable. The jury agreed. We thank the jury members for making sure justice was served," Wilson said in a statement.

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Got a tip? Email Miranda Suarez at You can follow Miranda on Twitter @MirandaRSuarez.

Miranda Suarez is KERA’s Tarrant County accountability reporter. Before coming to North Texas, she was the Lee Ester News Fellow at Wisconsin Public Radio, where she covered statewide news from the capital city of Madison. Miranda is originally from Massachusetts and started her public radio career at WBUR in Boston.