Star-Telegram- Fort Worth police announced at a news conference Monday that the officer who shot and killed a woman in her home Saturday has resigned.
Interim Police Chief Ed Kraus identified the officer as Aaron Dean, a man who has served about 18 months with the Fort Worth police. Kraus said he was going to fire the officer had he not resigned Monday morning.
Kraus said a criminal investigation is ongoing and he expects to release an update by Tuesday. The FBI also has been briefed to investigate possible civil rights violations, he said.
Kraus said his intention was to fire the officer for violating policies, including the use-of-force policy. Because Dean resigned, he no longer has the protection of state civil service laws.
Kraus said Dean has not cooperated with the investigation and has not answered questions from investigators.
Dean is being investigated in connection with the shooting death of Atatiana Jefferson, who was shot at her home in the 1200 block of East Allen Avenue at about 2:30 a.m. Saturday after her neighbor called police to request a welfare check at the home.
Dean posted on his Facebook page that he started working at the Fort Worth Police Department on April 13, 2018. On May 10, 2018, he posted a photo in his police uniform.
“Rookie life. . . waiting on the ME,” the post said.
Fort Worth Mayor Betsy Price said Jefferson’s death at the hands of a Fort Worth police officer is not justified.
“Atatiana was an amazing, smart woman who was unjustly taken from her family,” she said. “I cannot imagine anything worse and I am so sorry … there is nothing that can justify what happened.”
Price further commented on the image released of a gun found in Jefferson’s home. She said the gun was irrelevant and that Jefferson had a right to have a gun in her home.
Kraus said the police department has reached out to the Texas Rangers to discuss the possibility of the state law enforcement agency taking over investigation of the shooting, but nothing has been finalized. Kraus also said that he had forwarded information to officials with the FBI who have not yet responded with an answer about investigating the case.
It is late in the process for them to come in and conduct an investigation, Kraus said.
The officer who shot Jefferson was served a personnel complaint on Sunday, then placed on detached duty and stripped of his badge and firearm, Kraus said.
“I intended to meet with him this morning to terminate his employment with the Fort Worth Police Department, however, the officer tendered his resignation before I could meet with him,” Kraus said.
While Dean no longer works for the city, the administrative investigation will continue as if he were still employed.
“Had the officer not resigned, I would have fired him for violations of several policies, including the use of deadly force, failure to de-escalate and unprofessional conduct,” Kraus said.
A statement outlining the reasons for Dean’s firing will be included with the investigation to serve as written record of that determination, Kraus said.
“Additionally, the separation paperwork will be sent to the state’s licensing authority, the Texas Commission on Law Enforcement, and will reflect that he was dishonorably discharged from employment,” Kraus said.
Dean was hired by the department on Aug. 21, 2017, and commissioned as a licensed peace officer on April 13, 2018.
City Manager David Cooke said a third-party group will come in to review current Fort Worth police policies and training practices.
Cooke said city officials are reaching out to experts in the field and once they finalize the plan, they will present that to the city council in the next few weeks.
Cooke also revealed a panel of three nationwide experts will be convened to take a hard look at police department training, de-escalation and use-of-force policies. This will be separate and apart from a police monitor who is also being sought.
The panel of three experts is expected to review police procedure and policy and make recommendations to the City Council as to what powers the monitor and the people the monitor will supervise should possess.
Asked what he would tell residents who don’t trust police, Kraus said, “I tell them I get it. No one looked at that video and thought there’s no doubt this officer acted inappropriately,” Kraus said.
More training for officers is needed and will be done, he said.
“Most officers I have encountered over the last couple of days have said, ‘Chief, this is not how we operate,’” he said.
At 2:25 a.m., two officers were sent to the house where Jefferson was shot, police said. At 2:29 a.m., they parked nearby, but not in front of the house. They investigated on foot and went into the backyard.
The other officer who was with Dean is being treated as a witness to the shooting, Kraus says.
“The officer observed a person through a rear window in the house and fired a shot at that person,” police said in a written statement Sunday. “The officer did not announce that he was a police officer prior to shooting. What the officer observed and why he did not announce ‘Police’ will be addressed as the investigation continues.”
In a statement Saturday, Fort Worth police said the officer, “perceiving a threat,” drew his gun and “fired one shot striking the person inside the residence.”
Body camera footage of the shooting shows two officers using flashlights to check the perimeter of the house, inspecting two doors that are open with closed screen doors. At the back of house, one officer appears to see a figure through a dark window, and he quickly twists his body to the left.
“Put your hands up! Show me your hands!” he shouts through the window, his gun drawn. He then fires a single shot through the window, killing Jefferson.
Jefferson was a pre-med graduate of Xavier University in New Orleans and working on pharmaceutical equipment sales, said S. Lee Merritt, a civil rights attorney retained by Jefferson’s family. She was considering going back to medical school.
Leaders and community activists called for accountability and police reform after Saturday’s shooting. The Fort Worth Police Officers Association urged Fort Worth police to conduct a thorough and transparent investigation in a statement Sunday.
Merritt said Jefferson’s death is another example of excessive use of police force in Fort Worth. Since June, Fort Worth officers have shot seven people, six of them fatally.
This shooting took place days after a Dallas police officer, Amber Guyger, was sentenced to 10 years in prison for shooting a black man who she mistook as an intruder inside of his apartment, which she inadvertently entered.
In Guyger’s case, the Texas Rangers were called upon to investigate the shooting.