Atatiana Jefferson, the Fort Worth woman shot and killed in her own home by Fort Worth police officer Aaron Dean, had grabbed her gun and was looking out the window after hearing a disturbance outside, according to her 8-year old nephew. The boy was playing video games with his aunt when she was shot by Dean, who was outside the home after officers were called to check on the residence by a neighbor who was concerned about the front door being open. Dean, who’s now been charged with the murder of Jefferson, may try to use this fact in a criminal trial, but both the police chief and the mayor of Fort Worth have been vocal about Jefferson having every right to be armed in her home, particularly if she was concerned about a prowler outside.
Interim Police Chief Ed Kraus said at a news conference Tuesday that it “makes sense that she would have a gun if she felt that she was being threatened or there was someone in the backyard.”
That sentiment was echoed by an attorney for Jefferson’s family. Lee Merritt said Jefferson had every right to defend herself. The officers did not announce themselves as law enforcement.
“It’s only appropriate that Ms. Jefferson would have a gun,” he said at a news conference Tuesday, noting that the gun was legally owned and she had a license to carry it.
Merritt accused the Fort Worth Police Department of providing a defense for Dean by writing that Jefferson had pointed a gun at the window before Dean fired.
Fort Worth Mayor Betsy Price, speaking at a news conference a day earlier, said the gun was irrelevant.
“She was in her own home,” the mayor said of Jefferson. “She was taken from her family in circumstances that are truly unthinkable.”
The truly important facts here are that Dean didn’t identify himself as a police officer, and the fact that Jefferson had every right to have a firearm in her home and in her hand as she investigated a noise outside. The chief is absolutely correct when he says that it was “only appropriate” for Jefferson to be armed.
Nobody has all of the facts in this case, and I won’t pretend to know what was going through Officer Dean’s mind when he saw Jefferson. I just know that a series of tragic mistakes and decisions led to the death of an innocent woman in her own home, and justice must be done.
I don’t think the actions of Aaron Dean mean that every cop is a bad cop, or a racist, or would kill someone in their own home. Sadly, there are going to be folks making that exact argument, just as there will be those making the argument that while Dean may have made a mistake, it doesn’t amount to a crime. There may even be some folks trying to claim that Dean had every right to perceive Atatiana Jefferson as a threat, though thankfully I haven’t run across that argument personally.
What I do know is that you shouldn’t be shot and killed by a police officer in your own home when your neighbor calls for a welfare check. I know that me carrying a gun in my home should not be cause for a police officer to shoot me through my window. And I believe, though I do not know for certain and I am well aware of the failures of the criminal justice system, that justice can and will be done here.