Fort Worth Police Officer Resigns After Fatally Shooting Black Woman In Home

Oct 14, 2019
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AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

The Fort Worth police officer who shot and killed a woman in her house has been arrested and charged with murder. Reporter Bill Zeeble with member station KERA in Dallas has been covering this story. He joins us now.

And, Bill, let's start with this arrest. Does it come as a surprise?

BILL ZEEBLE, BYLINE: Not really. At the press conference today, the police chief and the mayor were really direct in their criticism of Aaron Dean's actions.

CORNISH: I want to review the facts of this case then. Walk us through what we know so far.

ZEEBLE: Well, early this past Saturday morning, Fort Worth police officers responded to a nonemergency call to check up on somebody who might need help in a house. So instead of knocking on the door, the officers walked around the outside of the house. One held a flashlight in one hand, a gun in the other. When a woman in the house appeared in the window, officer Dean shot and killed her. He never announced himself. He yelled, put up your hands. It was so fast. And he's the one who was arrested.

CORNISH: This was captured on body cam footage that was actually released publicly by the Fort Worth Police Department over the weekend. What's the reaction been?

ZEEBLE: People are pretty outraged. The shooting led to protests. There was a vigil, and family members demanded justice for 28-year-old Atatiana Jefferson, the woman who was killed. She was caring for her 8-year-old nephew. His name is Zion. The family members gathered in the office of their attorney Lee Merritt on Monday. Atatiana's brother, Darius Carr - he's in the Navy. He tried to make sense of Dean's actions.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

DARIUS CARR: There are preplanned responses to everything you do. Everything you're trained about, there's a way to do things. And when you don't do it the way you've been trained, the way you've been taught, you have to answer for that. Fort Worth P.D. cannot investigate themselves.

ZEEBLE: That's why Carr and the family want an independent investigation of the shooting. It's not clear that's going to happen.

CORNISH: Betsy Price, the mayor of Fort Worth, also spoke about the shooting at a press conference today. What did she have to say?

ZEEBLE: Well, she apologized. And I'm not sure I've ever quite heard an apology from an official this way.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

BETSY PRICE: As a mother, a grandmother, a sister and aunt, I can't imagine anything worse. And I'm so sorry. On behalf of the entire city of Fort Worth, I'm sorry. To Atiana's (ph) family, it's unacceptable. There is nothing that could justify what happened on Saturday morning - nothing.

ZEEBLE: Price said in time and after a lot of work - like, a lot of work - the city - her city - can and will heal.

CORNISH: This sounds like a challenge for this community. And I think the backdrop to this is the shooting of Botham Jean by officer Amber Guyger in nearby Dallas. How are the mayor and police chief in Fort Worth proposing to help heal their city?

ZEEBLE: Well, the mayor and police say the FBI will investigate the shooting for civil rights violations. The city is also in the process of trying to put together an outside group to advise the police on changing their own policies. Chief Ed Kraus admitted a whole lot of residents just don't trust them anymore.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

ED KRAUS: I tell them, I get it. I - nobody looked at that video and said there's any doubt that this officer acted inappropriately. We're trying to ensure that they act and react the way that the citizens intend them to, that they act and react with a servant's heart instead of a warrior's heart.

ZEEBLE: So the family's demanding an outside investigation. It's not clear that's going to happen. That said, the Texas Rangers told Fort Worth it may be too late for them to get involved. And as for charging Mr. Deans for the shooting death of Atatiana Jefferson, he's now arrested and in jail - arrested for murder.

CORNISH: That's reporter Bill Zeeble with member station KERA in Dallas.

Thank you for that update.

ZEEBLE: You're welcome. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.