Aaron Dean, the now-former police officer charged in the 2019 fatal shooting of Atatiana Jefferson, took the stand Monday in his murder trial.
Dean is charged with fatally shooting Jefferson, a Black woman who was killed inside her Fort Worth, Texas, home on Oct. 12, 2019.
Dean testified that he was responding to a call about open doors at Jefferson's home. As he was searching the home's parameter, he said he saw someone in the window holding a gun toward him. Officials confirmed Jefferson was holding a gun when she was killed.
He resigned from the Fort Worth Police Department after the shooting. Police officials said Jefferson was within her rights to protect herself and her nephew when she heard noises in her backyard and went to the window to investigate.
Dean testified that he was responded to an "open structure" call around 2:30 a.m. on Oct. 12. An open structure call refers to a door or window left open on a building, according to testimony from Officer Carol Darch, Dean's partner that night.
A neighbor had dialed a non-emergency number about his concerns of open doors at Jefferson's home, according to testimony from the call center employee who received the call. The neighbor, who testified last week, said he wanted a welfare check on the family.
Officers parked down the street from the home, Dean said. When asked why he didn't park in front of the house, he responded, "We don't want to give away our position to a criminal actor who might be on scene, it's for officer safety." He said he and Darch did not walk up the driveway of the home for similar reasons.
According to officials and body camera footage, Dean didn't knock on the door or announce a police presence.
He testified the residence was quiet when he and Darch approached. As they looked inside, "I could see objects strewn all over the floor ... it looked ransacked," Dean said.
He said he believed it was "a possible burglary." He said he responded by examining "the whole structure for signs of forced entry."
Dean then testified that he opened a gate to the backyard. He said he saw a person when he looked into the window of the house.
"I could tell there was movement, like the upper arms are moving like someone was reaching for something," Dean said on the witness stand. According to Dean, the person was very close to the window.
He continued, "I thought we had a burglar, so I stepped back, straightened up and drew my weapon and then pointed it towards the figure. I couldn't see that person's hands and we're taught the hands -- and it's what's in them that kill. We need to see the hands. We need to get people to show us our hands. We need to get control of those hands. So I drew my weapon intended to tell that person to show me their hands."
Dean testified that he looked back after he got his "light on [and] saw the silhouette again." He said he quickly shouted, "Put up your hands, show me your hands, show me your hands."
According to body cam footage, Dean only asked Jefferson to "show me your hands" once. He shot her after the second command.
"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 the barrel of that gun pointed at me, I fired a single shot from my duty weapon," Dean testified.
He said officers are trained to "meet deadly force with deadly force."
According to officials, as well as the testimony of Jefferson’s then-8-year-old nephew Zion who was in the room when Jefferson was shot, Jefferson and Zion were playing video games when she got up to see what was making the noise. Zion said she reached for a gun as she approached the window.
According to prosecutors, there was about a 1 minute and 17 second gap between Dean arriving on the scene and when he shot Jefferson.
Prosecutors have focused on whether Dean saw a gun and the fact that he entered the home quickly following the shooting despite believing it to be a robbery.
"It's more bad police work, isn't it?" prosecutors asked him.
"It's not the best," Dean testified.
Prosecutors continued, "When you got in the house, did you tell Darch there was a gun then?"
"When I found it, yes," Dean responded.
"No, I'm talking about in the living room ... did you tell her there was a gun in that house?" prosecutors asked.
No," Dean replied.
"You got another fellow officer from the Fort Worth Police Department entering a home which you had determined to be a burglary in progress with a possible armed assailant and you didn't think to say, 'Hey theres a gun inside?'" prosecutors said.
"No," Dean responded.