Atatiana Jefferson, the 28-year-old woman who was shot dead in her own home by a Fort Worth, Texas, police officer on Saturday, pulled out a handgun after hearing noises outside and pointed the weapon toward a window before she was shot, her 8-year-old nephew told investigators.
The child’s account was included in the arrest warrant affidavit for Aaron Dean, the officer who fired the fatal shot. The affidavit was released Tuesday.
As The Washington Post noted, the boy’s recollection appeared to corroborate earlier accounts of the shooting by Jefferson’s family members and others who said the victim had been attempting to protect herself and her nephew from what she thought may be a prowler outside when she was killed.
Fort Worth interim police chief Ed Kraus stressed at a news conference on Tuesday that it “makes sense” that Jefferson “would have a gun if she felt she was being threatened or if there was someone in the backyard.”
Lee Merritt, an attorney representing Jefferson’s family, echoed this sentiment.
“It’s only appropriate that Ms. Jefferson would have a gun,” Merritt said, according to the Dallas Morning News. “When you think there’s someone prowling around in the back at 2 in the morning, you may need to arm yourself.”
Merritt added that Jefferson had a license to carry the weapon.
In the affidavit for Dean, Jefferson’s nephew detailed how he and his aunt had been playing video games in her house at around 2:30 a.m. on Saturday when she “heard noises coming from outside,” the Morning News reported.
Jefferson, who is Black, “took her handgun from her purse” and pointed it “toward the window” before she was shot, the nephew said. The boy added that he then saw his aunt fall to the ground. She died at the scene.
Dean, a white police officer, had fired a single shot through the window after he and several other officers arrived at Jefferson’s home in response to a non-emergency call from a neighbor who’d expressed concern after seeing Jefferson’s front door open.
Police body camera footage released Saturday appeared to show Dean entering the backyard of Jefferson’s house, turning left and then pulling out his gun and pointing it at the window. He then shouts, “Put your hands up! Show me your hands!” before immediately firing his weapon.
There is no indication in the body cam footage or in the affidavit that Dean saw Jefferson holding the gun before he pulled the trigger, the Post and Morning News reported.
Dean was arrested and charged with Jefferson’s murder on Monday, hours after he resigned from the force.
Kraus said Tuesday that there was “absolutely no excuse for this incident and the person responsible will be held accountable.”
The interim chief also acknowledged that his department’s earlier decision to release a still image of a gun found at Jefferson’s home — but without any context or explanation of its link to the case — had not been the right one.
The department had faced criticism for the image. Merritt, the attorney for Jefferson’s family, accused police of attempting to alter the narrative of the case and blame the victim.
Kraus said at a Monday press conference that the department had released the image to show there had been a weapon “involved.”
“However, we’re homeowners in the state of Texas. I can’t imagine most of us, if we thought we had somebody outside our house who shouldn’t be, and we had access to a firearm — that we wouldn’t act very similarly to how she acted,” Kraus said, CBS News reported.
The following day, Kraus became emotional as he appealed to the public to not judge all the officers in the department based on Dean’s actions.
“The officers, they try hard every day to try to make this city better,” Kraus said. “I likened it to a bunch of ants building an anthill, and if somebody comes with a hose and washes it away they just have to start from scratch.”
Jefferson’s shooting occurred less than two weeks after former Dallas police officer Amber Guyger was convicted of killing her Black neighbor in his own apartment.
Guyger, who is white, was sentenced to 10 years in prison for the shooting death of Botham Jean.