Atatiana Jefferson

Atatiana Jefferson's Sister Files Federal Suit Against Fort Worth Officials, City, Former Officer

The suit names Aaron Dean, the officer accused of fatally shooting Jefferson, the city of Fort Worth, retired police Chief Ed Kraus and Mayor Betsy Price

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NBC 5 News

A federal lawsuit filed Wednesday alleges the city of Fort Worth failed to take actions that could have prevented the fatal shooting of Atatiana Jefferson by a Fort Worth police officer in October 2019.

The wrongful death suit was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas against Aaron Dean, the officer accused of fatally shooting Jefferson, the city of Fort Worth, retired police Chief Ed Kraus and Mayor Betsy Price.

The suit lists Jefferson's sister, Ashley Carr, as plaintiff, and requests damages of more than $10 million at the time of jury trial.

NBC 5 has reached out to the city of Fort Worth for comment. Bob Gill, an attorney for Dean, said he could not comment on the case because of a gag order imposed by the trial court.

It alleges that the city failed to properly train and discipline its officers, among other complaints, and that Kraus and Price "knew of the failures of the Fort Worth Police Department ... but failed to take the necessary steps to rectify the failures and adequately protect the constitutional rights of the people of Fort Worth."

The suit points to Dean's training records and "concerns about his abilities as a police officer" and alleges that the failure to provide further training caused Jefferson's death.

It also lists more than a dozen incidents between 2005 and 2019, which it alleges point to a "consistent and systematic failure to properly train and supervise its officers on the proper use of force" and de-escalation techniques.

It also mentions the findings of an expert panel formed in the wake of Jefferson's death, which found that "officers are not consistently adhering to policies to avoid force during encounters with community members and these policies are not enforced by the department," and that the department's de-escalation policy is not followed or adequately enforced.

Those "failures resulted in Defendant Dean failing to properly respond to the open
door call and instead sneak around the house with a gun drawn ready to shoot at the first figure that appeared in a window," the suit alleges.

Jefferson had been playing video games on Oct. 12, 2019, with her 8-year-old nephew at her mother's house on East Allen Avenue when a neighbor saw the front door was ajar and called the police non-emergency line.

They heard a noise in the backyard, and Jefferson grabbed a handgun from her purse and walked toward a window. Dean, who had responded to the call and was in the backyard, ordered her to put her hands up before firing into the window, fatally striking Jefferson.

Dean, who has resigned, was charged with murder. Last year, a judge tentatively set an August date for Dean's trial.

In November, Jefferson's biological father, Jerome Eschor, aunt Venitta Body and relative Arita Eschor filed a separate federal lawsuit against the city and the officer.

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