A Fort Worth jury returned a sentence Tuesday for former police officer Aaron Dean, who was convicted of manslaughter last week in the 2019 death of Atatiana Jefferson.
Dean was sentenced to serve 11 years, 10 months, and 12 days. Sentencing guidelines suggested a term of between two and 20 years.
Before the sentence was read, tensions ran high outside the courtroom as many of Jefferson’s supporters gathered to enter the courtroom. Dean’s family arrived to learn just how long he would serve.
Tarrant County deputies instructed everyone who entered the courtroom to turn in their electronic devices.
Dean’s sister Alyssa, an eight-year veteran of the Arlington police department, went to hand in her phone. When she asked people to move so she could turn over her mobile device, a Jefferson supporter replied, “We don’t take orders from you.”
Dean opted to be sentenced by the jury, which deliberated more than 13 hours, instead of Judge George Gallagher.
As Gallagher read the jury’s decision, mixed reactions and emotions filled the courtroom. Gasps could be heard from several individuals.
After the sentencing, members of Jefferson’s family, including her sisters Ashley and Amber Carr, took the stand to express how they felt through their victim statements.
Ashley read Amber’s statement to the court.
“[Atatiana] was my inspiration. Even when she really didn’t have the time to help, she seemed to make a way to do so,” Amber’s statement read. “She was so hilarious. She joked all the time until our bellies hurt.”
After Ashley read her sister’s statement, she expressed how she felt to the courtroom and Dean.
“My sister did not do anything wrong,” she said. “She was in her home, which should have been the safest place for her to be, and yet it turned out to be the most dangerous.”
Ashley continued, “She was murdered, and as her big sister, I live every day with the pain that I could not do my job and protect her.”
“All power to the people! All power to the people!” yelled Patrice Jones, founder of Southside Community Garden, as she exited the courtroom.
But not everyone was happy with the jury’s decision.
“When I was growing up, we could always play in our community, but the one place that we were always supposed to be safe, it was in our homes, said James Smith, a neighbor of Jefferson.
Smith called the police because he was worried after noticing Jefferson’s lights were on and the door was open.
“He took [Jefferson’s life] away, and I want somebody in this courthouse to explain to my daughter, my 15-year-old daughter, why is her life only worth 10 years and 11 damn months?” Smith asked reporters.
With no fine and time served, Dean must serve five and a half years before he will be eligible for parole.
He was remanded to the custody of the Tarrant County sheriff’s office and will begin serving his sentence immediately.
Dean’s Tarrant County sentencing comes amid the worsening state of crime in other areas of the metroplex. Reports of Dallas crime in 2022, under the authority of the Dallas City Council, have surpassed those filed in 2021.