Judge David Hagerman delayed the murder trial of Officer Aaron Dean on Wednesday until May, after key experts for the defense told the court that they were unavailable to appear and testify.
The trial will decide the fate of Aaron Dean, 37, who fatally shot a black woman, Atatiana Jefferson, 28, through her home window in Fort Worth, Tx. The court date was already postponed nearly a year due to Covid-19 restrictions, as well as the defense’s ask to move the case to another county in Texas.
Judge Hagerman stated that he granted this one delay on the reasoning that denying the request to postpone would, “result in an unfair trial and denial of the defendants’ rights under the 4th, 6th and 14th amendments.”
“No further continuances will be granted in this case,” he said.
Following the shooting, which occurred back on Oct. 12, 2019, Dean, who is white, resigned from the police force and was charged with murder. He was later released from custody after paying a $200,000 bond.
According to police reports, Officer Aaron Dean was responding to a late-night wellness check at Atatiana Jefferson’s mother’s house, when he fired at the woman from her backyard window. A neighbor called for the wellness check after reporting that their front door was left visibly open, though declared that it was a non-emergency.
Body camera footage released after the shooting showed Dean walking around the side of her house, pushing through a gate to enter her fenced-off backyard, and then firing immediately after shouting for Jefferson to put her hands up.
Police reports read that Atatiana Jefferson was playing video games with her 8-year-old nephew when she thought she heard someone walking around in her backyard. She grabbed her gun to inspect the property when she heard Dean shout and then fire. She reportedly died at the scene.
He was not heard or seen identifying himself as a police officer, and it is unknown why he pulled his firearm and fatally shot Atatiana. Detailed in the bodycam footage, Dean did not knock on the front door or ever alert the family to his presence.
Ed Kraus, the city’s former police chief at the time, stated that he believed Aaron Dean clearly acted without justification, and that he would have been fired had he not resigned immediately after. He also never gave a statement to investigators regarding his actions.
James Smith, the neighbor who called for the wellness check, told local reporters that he never intended for any violence, and was just concerned for Jefferson’s health since he heard she was not feeling well.
“Nothing that they should have been concerned with, as far as them coming with guns drawn to my neighbor’s house,” Smith said. “There wasn’t any reason for a gunshot that I know of… she wasn’t a threat.”
Kyev Tatum, a pastor and community activist, was on the scene shortly after the shooting, where he suggested that Atatiana probably just had the door open to let in a little air.
“This was probably one of the first days that we had cool weather in Fort Worth,” he said. “This was a cool evening. I’m sure she allowed the door to be open to air out the house, to get some fresh air in the house.”
“If you hear some noise in your backyard early in the morning when you’re with your 8-year-old nephew, well of course anyone in their right mind is going to try to protect themselves and others, especially a child,” Tatum told reporters. “But the officer reacted so quickly and never identified himself as a police officer.”
Jury selection for the murder trial is tentatively scheduled for May 6 with opening statements set for May 16.