On Monday, Nov. 16, family members of Atatiana Jefferson, who was fatally shot by a Texas police officer in 2019, filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the city of Fort Worth and former Fort Worth officer Aaron Dean.
The federal suit was filed by Arita Eschor, Venitta Body and Jerome Eschor. Jerome Eschor is Jefferson’s biological father, and Venitta Body is Jefferson’s aunt on her late mother’s side. Arita Eschor is a another relative, although it’s not clear how she’s related to the family. The family is being represented by attorney Lee Merritt.
The suit names the city of Fort Worth and former officer Aaron Dean as defendants, and alleges that Dean used excessive force and assaulted Jefferson, resulting in her wrongful death. It also claims the city “knew or should have known that Defendant Aaron Dean exhibited a pattern of escalating encounters with the public.”
The suit claims Jefferson was “not violating any laws of the state,” and that she was shot “without provocation or excuse.”
Jefferson, 28, was in her mother’s home playing video games with her eight-year-old nephew in the early morning hours of Oct. 12, 2019, when she was shot by Dean through a window of the home. Jefferson had relocated to Texas to serve as a caretaker for her mom, who was battling an illness. Her mother, Yolanda Carr, 55, died in January, three months after her daughter’s death. Jefferson’s father, Marquis Jefferson, 58, died after suffering a heart attack roughly two weeks after his daughter’s funeral.
The 34-year-old officer was responding to a request for a wellness check after a neighbor called the non-emergency line to report that the front door of the home Jefferson was in was open.
When Dean arrived, he noticed movement in the window.
“Put your hands up, show me your hands,” Dean said, before firing a round into the window almost immediately after.
Jefferson’s nephew watched his aunt fall to the ground. She was pronounced dead at around 3 a.m.
Dean resigned from the police department soon after, and was charged with murder just two days after the incident. He was indicted in December by a grand jury. His trial has been placed on hold due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The lawsuit claims Dean “intentionally and with conscious, callous, deliberate and unreasonably indifference” used excessive force to kill Jefferson.
“By their deliberate indifference, Defendants the City of Fort Worth Police Department implemented and encouraged policies, practices, and customs with deliberate indifference to the rights of citizens,” the suit continues.
Dean’s personnel files revealed that his supervisor noted he had “poor communication skills,” and displayed “tunnel vision.”
“We are currently under a gag rule in the criminal case, so I have no comment,” Dean’s attorney said in response to CNN’s request for comment. The Fort Worth Police Department also said it could not make any comments regarding the suit.