Aaron Dean, the Texas cop who fatally shot Atatiana Jefferson during a welfare check gone awry, was sentenced to just under 12 years in state prison on Monday.
Dean’s sentence is more than eight years below the sentence prosecutors had pushed for after Dean was convicted of manslaughter last week, but it’s significantly more severe than probation—the punishment his defense had lobbied for this week.
Dean was initially charged with murder, but a jury, which featured no Black jurors, determined Thursday that the killing was an act of manslaughter. Dean’s sentencing hearing began immediately after, and ended Tuesday afternoon.
Troubling details about Dean’s past surfaced during the sentencing hearing, but his defense countered with character references from a pastor, mother, sister and brother.
A psychologist who evaluated Dean before he was hired by the Fort Worth Police Department testified that Dean wasn’t fit to be a cop—a determination that was shared with the department but ignored.
The psychologist, Kyle Clayton, said Dean exhibited grandiose, “domineering, over controlling” personality traits, which made him “more likely to engage in behaviors that would put himself and others at risk.”
A woman also testified Friday that Dean sexually harassed her in 2004 when they were students at the University of Texas-Arlington.
The woman said Dean hugged her from behind and “skirted the cup of my brassiere.” After asking about a promise ring she was wearing, Dean allegedly used his finger to trace the outline of the dress on her breast, which made her “deeply upset,” she said.
Dean’s sentencing finally puts an end to a case that was more than three years in the making—rife with controversy, protest and delays.
Dean shot Jefferson through her bedroom window from a backyard on Oct. 12, 2019, after a neighbor called a non-emergency line because Jefferson’s front door had been left open late at night.
Jefferson had not committed a crime. Her nephew, Zion Carr, testified that they were up late playing video games together, and they’d left the doors open to air out smoke after they cooked hamburgers.
Around 2:30 a.m., however, Carr said his aunt heard something outside, so she grabbed a gun and went to investigate. Seconds later, she was shot dead by Dean, Carr recalled.
The trial centered heavily on whether Jefferson had pointed her handgun at Dean—as he testified—or whether it remained at her side, as Carr testified.
“Just held it next to her side, she just like, she didn’t point it up, she just kept it next to her,” Carr, now 11, testified last week.
Dean broke into tears while testifying, calling Jefferson’s death a tragic accident. He said he believed there was a robbery in progress, so he never announced his arrival or stated that he was a police officer.
Under cross-examination, he conceded he could’ve done a better job, but insisted he only shot Jefferson because she pointed a gun at him.
“I was shouting at this time, shouting commands, ‘Put up your hands, show me your hands, show me your hands,’” Dean said. “And as I started to get that second phrase out, ‘Show me your hands,’ I saw the silhouette, I was looking right down the barrel of a gun. And when I saw that barrel of that gun pointed at me, I fired a single shot from my duty weapon.”
Dean fired one shot through the window, which struck Jefferson in her heart. Her death sparked protests in North Texas and nationwide once body-cam footage of the incident was released.