Texas officer charged with murder, resigns after shooting

Interim police chief Ed Kraus speaks as Mayor Betsy Price listens at a news conference at the Bob Bolen Public Safety Complex in Fort Worth, Texas, Monday, Oct. 14, 2019, about Saturday's shooting death of Atatiana Jefferson by a police officer. (AP)
Updated 15 October 2019

Texas officer charged with murder, resigns after shooting

  • Jefferson was staying up late, playing video games with her nephew, when she was killed, according to the family's attorney

FORT WORTH, TEXAS: A white Fort Worth police officer who shot and killed a black woman through a back window of her home while responding to a call about an open front door was charged with murder on Monday after resigning from the force.
Aaron Dean, 34, was booked into jail on a murder charge Monday afternoon. The police chief said earlier in the day that he acted without justification and would have been fired if he didn't quit.
Police bodycam video showed Dean approaching the door of the home where Atatiana Jefferson, 28, was caring for her 8-year-old nephew early Saturday. He then walked around the side of the house, pushed through a gate into the fenced-off backyard and fired through the glass a split-second after shouting at Jefferson to show her hands.
Dean was not heard identifying himself as police on the video, and Interim Police Chief Ed Kraus said there was no sign Dean or the other officer who responded even knocked on the front door.
"Nobody looked at this video and said that there's any doubt that this officer acted inappropriately," Kraus said.
Earlier in the day, Jefferson's family had demanded that Dean, a member of the force for 1½ years, be fired and arrested.
"Why this man is not in handcuffs is a source of continued agitation for this family and for this community," family attorney Lee Merritt said.
Police went to Jefferson's home about 2:25 a.m. after a neighbor called a non-emergency line to report a door ajar. In a statement over the weekend, the department said officers saw someone near a window inside the home and that one of them drew his gun and fired after "perceiving a threat."
The video showed Dean shouting, "Put your hands up! Show me your hands!" and immediately firing.
Jefferson was staying up late, playing video games with her nephew, when she was killed, according to the family's attorney.
As for what, exactly, led Dean to open fire, the police chief said: "I cannot make sense of why she had to lose her life." The chief said Dean resigned without talking to internal affairs investigators.
The video included images of a gun inside a bedroom. Kraus said he did not know whether Jefferson was holding the weapon. But he said the mere fact she had a gun shouldn't be considered unusual in Texas.
"We're homeowners in Texas," the police chief said. "Most of us, if we thought we had somebody outside our house that shouldn't be and we had access to a firearm, we would be acting very similarly to how she was acting." Kraus said that, in hindsight, releasing the images of the weapon was "a bad thing to do."
Mayor Betsy Price called the gun "irrelevant."
"Atatiana was in her own home, caring for her 8-year-old nephew. She was a victim," Price said.
Texas has had a "castle doctrine" law on the books since 2007 that gives people a stronger legal defense to use deadly force in their homes. The law was backed at the time by the National Rifle Association and is similar to "stand your ground" measures across the U.S. that say a person has no duty to retreat from an intruder.
Fort Worth is about 30 miles (50 kilometers) west of Dallas, where another high-profile police shooting occurred last year.
In that case, white Dallas officer Amber Guyger shot and killed her black neighbor Botham Jean inside his own apartment after Guyger said she mistook his place for her own. Guyger, 31, was sentenced this month to 10 years in prison.
A large crowd gathered outside Jefferson's home Sunday night for a vigil after demonstrations briefly stopped traffic on Interstate 35. A single bullet hole was visible in the window of the single-story, freshly painted purple home, and floral tributes and stuffed animals piled up in the street.
The police chief said Dean could face state charges and that he had submitted a case to the FBI to review for possible federal civil rights charges.
Dean has not yet hired an attorney but will have one provided with financial support from the state's largest police union, the Combined Law Enforcement Associations of Texas, according to Charley Wilkison, executive director.
Relations with the public have been strained after other recent Fort Worth police shootings. In June, the department released footage of officers killing a man who ignored repeated orders to drop his handgun. He was the fourth person Fort Worth police had fired upon in 10 days.
Of the nine officer-involved shootings so far this year in Fort Worth, five targeted African Americans and six resulted in death, according to department data.
Nearly two-thirds of the department's 1,100 officers are white, just over 20% are Hispanic, and about 10% are black. The city of nearly 900,000 people is about 40% white, 35% Hispanic and 19% black.
Calling the shooting "a pivotal moment in our city," the mayor said she was ordering a top-to-bottom review of the police force and vowed to "rebuild a sense of trust within the city and with our police department."
Jefferson was a 2014 graduate of Xavier University in New Orleans and earned a bachelor's degree in biology. She was working in pharmaceutical equipment sales and was considering going to medical school, according to the family's lawyer.


Thailand to tout 'trusted' tourism in coronavirus era

Updated 23 min 9 sec ago

Thailand to tout 'trusted' tourism in coronavirus era

  • The government has rolled out a health certification system for hotels and restaurants so that travellers can be reassured
  • Thailand has banned international flights until at least June 30
BANGKOK: Thailand is positioning itself as a trusted destination for international tourists after travel restrictions ease, capitalising on its relative success in containing the coronavirus outbreak, industry officials say.
The Southeast Asian country, the first to report a virus case outside of China, wants to build on its reputation and remake its popular image as a destination for big tour groups.
"After COVID eases, we plan to refresh the country's image to a trusted destination where tourists will have peace of mind," Tanes Petsuwan, the Tourism Authority of Thailand's (TAT) deputy governor for marketing and communications, told Reuters.
The campaign, to be launched later in the year, will be aimed at young affluent travellers from places that are considered low-risk such as China, South Korea and Taiwan, Tanes said. It will highlight scenic beaches and parks, part of a "tourism bridge" that could emerge in Asia including Hong Kong and Japan.
The government has rolled out a health certification system for hotels and restaurants so that travellers can be reassured.
"The certificate is a tool to build trust and showcase Thailand as your amazing trusted destination," Tanes said.
Southeast Asia's second-largest economy has so far reported just over 3,100 cases and 58 deaths – far less than other major regional economies, except for Vietnam. Local transmission has waned, with the last recorded case on May 25.
The tourism industry, which accounts for 12 percent of the economy, collapsed after the outbreak escalated. Thailand welcomed 39.8 million foreign tourists last year but projects as few as 14 million for 2020.
Thailand has banned international flights until at least June 30, and foreign tourists aren't expected until later in the year. In the meantime, the government is drawing up a stimulus package to promote domestic tourism from July to October.
But when international travel resumes, Thailand will promote the "trust" concept, as hotels emphasise measures they are taking for safety and offer special packages.
Central Plaza Hotel Pcl, which manages 46 hotels and resorts across Thailand, will seal rooms once they are cleaned and disinfected so guests will be confident, deputy CEO Markland Blaiklock told Reuters.
"We may limit occupancy at 50% on some properties so guests experience social distancing that they are comfortable with," he said.
But it's unclear if travellers will be at ease before a coronavirus vaccine is available, which experts say is at least a year away.
For now, hotels will have to go the extra mile to tempt travellers.
Potjanee Darakamas of Oxford Acuity, which manages and operates hotels, cited private airport transfers, in-room spa services and packages around specific themes such as health retreats and activities tailor-made for individual guests.
"Hygiene is a must, so offering bespoke services will give boutique hotels with unique selling points an advantage over corporate operators."