Officers had shown up at Jefferson’s house to perform a wellness check–then started shooting.
The family of Atatiana Jefferson, a Black woman who was shot through a window by police, has filed a lawsuit against the Texas city of Forth Worth as well as the officer who killed her.
According to CNN, the amended lawsuit was submitted earlier this week in the Northern District of Texas. In the complaint, Jefferson’s family claimed that the conduct of Officer Aaron Dean had, during “the course and scope of employment caused the untimely death of Atatiana Carr a/k/a Atatiana Jefferson.”
Dean, says CNN, resigned from the Forth Worth police force and was charged with murder; he was indicted late last winter.
CNN recalls how Jefferson, 28, was playing video games with her nephew around 2am on October 12, 2019, when Dean and another officer arrived at her home.
A concerned neighbor had phoned police for a wellness check—they had noticed one of Jefferson’s exterior doors was open, despite the late hour. As Dean and his colleague walked around Jefferson’s home, they heard a noise from inside the house.
Jefferson, recalls CNN, had heard the officers moving around outside her home. Not knowing they were law enforcement, Jefferson—suspecting intruders–retrieved a handgun from her purse and approached the window.
Dean, screaming from the yard, immediately demanded that Jefferson comply with his instructions.
“Put your hands up!” Dean yelled. “Show me your hands!”
Despite not establishing a clear line of sight—and perhaps unaware of the fact that Jefferson would not be able to see out of a well-lit house into the dark night—Dean opened fire, killing Jefferson.
Body camera footage, reviewed a later date, showed that neither Dean nor his fellow officer had identified themselves as police.
The lawsuit states that Jefferson was killed while at home, “not violating any laws of the state […] her shooting was without provocation or cause.” It also suggested that the city “knew or should have known that Defendant Aaron Dean exhibited a pattern of escalating encounters with the public.”
The Associated Press notes that, while police performance reviews make no mention of Dean’s alleged “pattern of escalating counters with the public,” a supervisor did not he had “poor communication skills,” present both in his encounters with the public and fellow officers.
The complaint further accuses Forth Worth and Dean of being “deliberately indifferent to protecting Atatiana Carr a/k/a Atatiana Jefferson from harm by systematically failing to provide adequate training and supervision to its officers, uphold Atatiana Carr a/k/a Atatiana Jefferson’s constitutional rights, and providing urgently needed medical care.”
“Defendants acted with high disregard for the rights of others, and their conduct was extreme and unreasonable under the circumstances,” the lawsuit claims.