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Former officer Aaron Dean takes the stand in Atatiana Jefferson case

Marilyn Nieves/Getty Images

(DALLAS) — 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.

“This jury needs to hear from me and hear the truth,” Dean said of his decision to testify.

The defense focused its questioning on what Dean learned in police academy training, specifically “shoot, don’t shoot survival training.”

Dean testified that he was sent to respond 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 shouted, “Put up your hands, show me your hands, show me your hands.”

“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.

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