FORT WORTH (CN) – A white cop who shot and killed a black woman in her home during a welfare check was arrested and charged with murder, Fort Worth police announced Monday night.
The announcement came hours after the officer, Aaron Dean, resigned. Dean had been refusing to cooperate with investigators.
Officer Chris Daniels, a police spokesman, told reporters at a hastily-called press conference that Dean was arrested at 6:00 p.m.
“To the citizens and residents of our city: We feel and understand your anger and disappointment,” he said. “We stand by you as we work together to make Fort Worth a better place for us all.”
Dean was booked into the Tarrant County Jail and was released after posting a $200,000 bond, according to jail records.
He was hired to the department in August 2017 and commissioned eight months later.
He is charged with killing Atatiana Jefferson, 28, who died at 2:30 a.m. Saturday at her mother’s home just south of downtown Fort Worth. Her neighbor called for a non-emergency welfare check of the home after seeing the front door ajar and lights on inside.
Jefferson was playing a video game with her nephew, Zion Carr, 8, before she was shot.
Police quickly released a body camera video within hours of the shooting. The two-minute video is heavily edited and shows Dean walking up to the open front door, then walking down the side of the house. He suddenly looks into a window and yells “put your hands up, show me your hands,” before immediately firing his service weapon inside.
Dean is not shown identifying himself as a police officer. The video later cuts to footage of what appears to be a handgun inside the house, but does not show where the weapon is located in relation to Jefferson or if it is in the same room.
Daniels said the department is working closely with the Tarrant County district attorney and that the separate criminal and administrative investigations are ongoing.
Daniels acknowledged the community’s outcry against the killing, offering the department’s condolences to Jefferson’s family.
“We understand that this is a tough and tragic event for her family and for the community,” he said. “We value the trust that we have had with our community, we will continue to build that trust and we will continue to be as transparent as possible in all police matters.”
City and police officials repeatedly apologized to Jefferson’s family during an earlier press conference Monday afternoon. Mayor Betsy Price said the killing was “senseless” with “no justification.” She promised that a third-party panel would be brought in to perform a full review of the department.
Interim Police Chief Ed Kraus said he intended to fire Dean when investigators first spoke with him Monday morning after a mandatory 48-hour cooling off period, but Dean tendered his resignation before that happened. He said Dean would have been fired with a dishonorable discharge due to a violation of department use of force policies.
Kraus acknowledged the public outcry against the inclusion of Jefferson’s weapon in the body camera video, saying it was a “bad idea” in hindsight.
“She acted like any other Texas homeowner would” hearing noises outside her home, he said.
Kraus added that his fellow officers have told him since the release of the body camera video that “this is not how we operate.”
In a separate press conference with attorney Lee Merritt Monday morning, Jefferson’s family called for the immediate firing and arrest of Dean.
“This officer not being in handcuffs is a source of continued agitation for this family and community,” Merritt said.
Anger and backlash against Jefferson’s killing was immediate in the community, which is still reeling from the murder conviction of former Dallas cop Amber Guyger.
A Dallas County jury sentenced her to ten years in state prison on Oct. 2 for erroneously entering neighbor Botham Jean’s apartment on the fourth floor of the South Side apartments near downtown Dallas, mistaking it for her own apartment on the third floor.
She entered the ajar door before firing into the dark at what she believed was an intruder inside, striking Jean in the chest.