A Texas police officer who fatally shot a Black woman through a rear window of her home three years ago never said the woman had a gun before he pulled the trigger and never mentioned the weapon before searching the home, the an officer who was with him. he testified that Tuesday night.
Fort Worth Officer Carol Darch’s testimony in Aaron Dean’s murder trial for the killing of Atatiana Jefferson addressed a key issue in the case: did Dean see Jefferson’s gun before he opened fire. Dean’s lawyers say the white officer saw the weapon, although prosecutors claim the evidence will show otherwise.
Darch, 27, took the witness stand on the second day of the long-delayed trial and recalled Dean shooting 28-year-old Jefferson as officers responded to an open front door call on Oct. 12, 2019. d she admitted that she had memory problems due to two strokes she had suffered since then.
The case was unusual because of the relative speed with which the Fort Worth Police Department, amid public outrage, released the body camera video of the shooting and arrested Dean, who resigned from the force a day after the shooting. Since then, it has been postponed several times due to a lawyer dispute, the terminal illness of the chief prosecutor and the COVID-19 pandemic.
On Tuesday, Darch recalled that she and Dean thought the Jefferson home might have been burglarized and went into the backyard, guns drawn, looking for signs of forced entry. She said as she scanned the back of the yard, she heard Dean yell and fire a shot before she could fully turn around.
Bodycam footage showed that neither officer identified themselves as police at the home. Dean’s attorney said Monday that Dean opened fire after seeing the silhouette Jefferson with a gun in the window and a green laser sight aimed at him.
Darch revealed that when she turned around, all she could see through the window through which Jefferson had just been shot were “eyes the size of sockets”.
“All I could see were eyes, really,” she said. “I couldn’t see if it was a man or a woman. Eyes only.”
Darch testified that Dean never said “gun” before opening fire and did not point to a weapon as the two rushed into the house, a recollection supported by body camera footage in court. In the footage, the officers could be heard shouting “hands up” and “show me your hands” as they searched the house. But Dean couldn’t be heard talking about a weapon until he was looking at the gun next to Jefferson’s body. Darch remembered seeing the laser sight on the submerged cannon.
Once inside, Darch said her only focus was the crying of Jefferson’s 8-year-old nephew, who witnessed the shooting.
Zion Carr, now 11, offered conflicting accounts of whether her aunt threw her pistol out the window. He testified on the opening day of the trial that the gun was always below her, but said in a recorded interview soon after the shooting that she pointed it at the window.
After seeing Jefferson on the floor and Carr crying, Darch said she wrapped the little boy in a blanket and whisked him out to the curb. She admitted that neither she nor Dean had helped Jefferson and said that Carr’s welfare was her greatest concern.
“As soon as I came through the door, I heard the baby and that was my only focus,” she said, tearing up.
Associated Press writer Jamie Stengle contributed to this report.