A Texas jury found a former police officer guilty of manslaughter on Thursday, after he shot Atatiana Jefferson through the window of her home in 2019.
Former Fort Worth Officer Aaron Dean, who is White, shot the 28-year-old Black woman through a rear window of her Texas home while responding to a call about an open front door.
Jurors also considered a murder charge against Dean but instead convicted him of manslaughter. Jurors deliberated for more than 13 hours over two days before finding him guilty.
At the time, Jefferson was playing video games with her 8-year-old nephew, who told authorities his aunt pulled out a gun after hearing suspicious noises behind the house.
Dean was called to the house with another officer after a neighbor called a nonemergency police line to report that the front door to Jefferson’s home was open. At trial, it was revealed that Jefferson and her nephew left the doors open to vent smoke from hamburgers the boy burned.
Body camera footage of the incident showed Dean and the other officer did not identify themselves as a police officers.
Dean and Officer Carol Darch testified that they thought the house might have been burglarized and quietly moved into the fenced-off backyard looking for signs of forced entry.
Dean then fired a single shot through the window after shouting at Jefferson, who was inside, to show her hands.
He claimed he had to shoot because Jefferson pointed the barrel of a gun directly at him. But he later admitted that his actions before and after the shooting were "bad police work."
Darch testified that Dean never mentioned seeing a gun before he pulled the trigger and didn't say anything about a gun when they ran inside to search the house.
Jefferson's nephew, Zion Carr, was in the room when his aunt was shot. He gave conflicting accounts of whether she pointed the gun out the window.
On the trial’s opening day, the now-11-year-old Carr testified that Jefferson always had the gun pointed down, but in an interview that was recorded soon after the shooting and played in court, he said she had pointed the weapon at the window.
Dean, 38, faces up to 20 years in prison, with the sentencing phase of his trial set to begin Friday. He was booked into the Tarrant County Jail following the verdict.
Jefferson's killing shattered trust police had been trying to build with communities of color in Fort Worth, a city of 935,000 about 30 miles west of Dallas that has long had complaints of racially unequal policing and excessive force.
The shooting drew swift rebuke from the city's then-police chief and Republican mayor, who at the time called the circumstances "truly unthinkable" and said Jefferson having a gun was "irrelevant."
The Associated Press contributed to this report.