Updates to our Terms of Use

We are updating our Terms of Use. Please carefully review the updated Terms before proceeding to our website.

Monday, June 10, 2024 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Partner of former cop on trial for killing Black homeowner takes stand

The 28-year-old officer told jurors she had only been on patrol for about a month when her partner Aaron Dean killed Atatiana Jefferson in her Fort Worth home.

FORT WORTH, Texas (CN) — Prosecutors attacked former police officer Aaron Dean’s claims of self-defense Tuesday, arguing he did not see Atatiana Jefferson hold a gun before he fatally shot her through her bedroom window and repeatedly violated police policy after failing to identify himself during a welfare check.

Dean’s former Fort Worth police partner, Carol Darch, 28, testified on the second day of his murder trial that she did not see Jefferson with a gun inside the window and that Dean never said Jefferson had a gun before shooting.

Dean, 38, of Arlington, is charged with murder for killing the Black homeowner during the welfare check on Oct. 12, 2019. A neighbor had called a nonemergency police phone number requesting the check due to her front door being left open.

The defense team said Monday during opening statements Dean did not identify himself because of a department standing order to treat open structure calls the same as a silent alarm. They claim Dean was forced to shoot after a green laser mounted to Jefferson’s gun had shined onto him and Darch, who was behind him as they stood in front of the window.

Prosecutors played an extended clip from Dean’s body camera in court, where he is shown walking up to the open front door, then walking down the side of the home before suddenly yelling “put your hands up, show me your hands!” and immediately firing his service weapon inside. Dean is not shown identifying himself as police at any time. He appeared relieved when he discovered the gun near Jefferson and is not shown rendering any aid as she lay dying.

Defense attorney Miles Brissette, with Gill Brissette in Fort Worth, pushed back on Dean’s lack of rendering medical aid in the video, rhetorically asking Darch on cross-examination if their police academy training taught them to handle “every scenario under the sun.”

The public has previously only seen a heavily edited two-minute long clip released by police immediately after the killing.

Darch testified under direct examination that Jefferson’s messy living room indicated to her that a burglary may be in progress, but admitted that she saw no signs of forced entry at the front door.

“It looked like someone was methodically going through that house, looking for something,” she said.

Darch defended the decision to not identify themselves as police.

“If there is still a burglar inside, you don’t want them to know you are there and escape,” she said.

She said the pair were searching the backyard when she heard Dean open fire. Darch was a rookie at the time – she said she had only been on patrol on her own for about one month before the killing.

Darch told jurors that she immediately went to Jefferson’s 8-year-old nephew, Zion Carr, who had witnessed the killing.

“As soon as I went in the door, I heard the baby and he became my sole focus,” a visibly upset Darch said. She told jurors she wrapped Carr in a blanket from the house and took him outside to a curb to shield him from “what was going on” inside.

Tarrant County District Judge George Gallagher granted Darch a short break after she became emotional talking about how her greatest concern since the shooting has been Carr’s wellbeing.

Carr, now 11, testified Monday that he did not see Jefferson lift the gun up at police, that she held it at her hip. He told jurors the pair were playing video games when Jefferson heard a noise outside and went for her gun in her purse to investigate.

Darch testified the east division of Fort Worth is a “busier” assignment for police and that the Hillside Morningside area where Jefferson lived was considered a high-crime place.

Assistant Tarrant County District Attorney Ashlea Deener’s line of questioning touched on Dean’s alleged failure to follow his training after opening fire, including failing to render medical aid. She claimed Dean violated several general orders in place and failed to notify his partner of a gun being present.

“De-escalation would be one … in a circumstance where there are other officers,” Deener said. “You were never told anything about a gun, right?”

“No, ma’am,” Darch replied.

When asked about the green laser on Jefferson’s gun, Darch said she cannot testify as to what Dean saw.

The trial is expected to last two weeks.

Follow @davejourno
Categories / Criminal, Regional, Trials

Subscribe to Closing Arguments

Sign up for new weekly newsletter Closing Arguments to get the latest about ongoing trials, major litigation and hot cases and rulings in courthouses around the U.S. and the world.