An 8-year-old’s eyewitness account of what preceded his aunt being violently taken from him in an instant, felled by a police officer’s bullet, points to a woman who took out her gun to protect herself and her nephew from a possible intruder skulking about their yard in the middle of the night.
Atatiana Jefferson’s 8-year-old nephew told investigators that he and his aunt were playing video games about 2:30 Saturday morning when “she heard noises outside their home,” the Dallas Morning News reports.
That’s when, the boy said, his aunt took her handgun out of her purse and “pointed it toward the window” right before she was shot by then Fort Worth, Texas, Police Officer Aaron Dean, the Morning News reports, citing details included in the arrest warrant for Dean, who has been charged with murder for killing Jefferson.
However, rather than exonerate Dean, who abruptly quit the force Monday before he could be fired, Jefferson’s family, as well as Fort Worth’s police chief and mayor, say the fact that the 28-year-old woman was armed is irrelevant.
“It’s only appropriate that Ms. Jefferson would have a gun,” Jefferson family attorney S. Lee Merritt said Tuesday, according to the Morning News. “When you think there’s someone prowling around in the back at 2 a.m. in the morning, you may need to arm yourself. That person could have a gun.”
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Fort Worth’s interim police chief, Ed Kraus, agreed, saying 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.”
Fort Worth Mayor, Betsy Price, on Monday, also said that whether Jefferson had a gun was immaterial.
“She was in her own home,” Price said. “She was taken from her family in circumstances that are truly unthinkable.”
And, not like it matters—as police bodycam footage of Jefferson’s death doesn’t show Dean or anyone else asking—but, yes, Jefferson was licensed to carry a firearm, Merritt noted.
But it greatly concerns the family, the lawyer continued, that it appears from the wording of the arrest warrant that Fort Worth police were trying to give Dean an out, the Morning News reports:
“Suddenly, they’re building the defense in the arrest warrant itself for the officer, alleging that Atatiana pointed a weapon out of the window,” the lawyer said.
The police department was earlier criticized for its decision to release a photo of what appeared to be a gun in Jefferson’s bedroom after she was killed, a decision Chief Kraus later acknowledged was a wrong move.
Dean and another officer drove up on Jefferson’s home early Saturday morning after they were dispatched to do a “welfare check.” One of Jefferson’s neighbors had called for the family to be checked on when he noticed that the front and side doors of their home had been left open for some time.
According to the arrest-warrant affidavit for Dean, the officers never called out into Jefferson’s home nor identified themselves as police before stepping onto her property.
Police bodycam footage captured Dean yelling through a window for someone to put their hands up before he fired his gun through the glass, killing Jefferson as her young nephew watched.
Dean is currently free on $200,000 bond.