Texas cop who shot woman was critiqued for ‘tunnel vision’

FILE – This undated file photo provided by the Tarrant County Jail shows Aaron Dean, a 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. A judge has issued a gag order in Dean’s murder trial that prohibits lawyers and others involved in Dean’s trial from speaking publicly about specifics of the case. (Tarrant County Jail via AP, File)

FORT WORTH, Texas (AP) — A white Fort Worth police officer who fatally shot a black woman in her home last month had been critiqued in a 2018 performance review for missing calls for help over the radio and sometimes having “tunnel vision.”

Aaron Dean’s supervisor commended him in his most recent evaluation, in April 2019, for working at the level of more experienced officers, exhorting him to “keep up the good work,” according to records obtained by the Fort Worth Star-Telegram . But his supervisor was critical in earlier performance reviews, writing that Dean had poor communication skills and accusing him of being evasive rather than owning up to doing wrong.

The records offer new insight into the 35-year-old who is facing a murder charge for shooting 28-year-old Atatiana Jefferson through her back window after responding to a call about an open front door. He resigned from the department in October without answering questions about the shooting.

During his 2017 police department job interview, Dean said he wanted to serve the public and liked “the action and adventure” that he believed came with being an officer. Dean said he had aspired to join the military and saw becoming an officer as a “way to do some of those same things without having to deploy overseas.” He said he would have “no problem” using lethal force if necessary.

Dean also disclosed during his interview that he touched “a girl I was friends with” inappropriately while a college student and that he pleaded no-contest in 2004 to the resulting simple assault charge.

Dean said the woman reported him to police after he stroked her breast in the library at the University of Texas at Arlington. He said she had been flirtatious and that he “just wanted to respond, see how it would go.” Dean told the interviewing officers that he paid a fine and has been more careful since.

Dean graduated from the Dallas-area university in 2011 with a bachelor’s degree in physics and joined the Fort Worth police force in April 2018. The misdemeanor charge from more than a decade earlier wouldn’t have prevented Dean from becoming an officer under Fort Worth’s civil service regulations.

Dean’s attorney, Jim Lane, has not commented on his client’s state of mind or his response to the murder charge, and the judge overseeing the murder trial case last week issued a gag order barring the parties from discussing it publicly.

Bodycam footage shows Dean shot Jefferson early on the morning of Oct. 12 after entering her backyard. Dean cannot be heard identifying himself as police on the video. Police said Dean drew his gun after “perceiving a threat” but that there was no sign he or the other officer who responded ever knocked on the front door.

A gun was found in Jefferson’s home after the shooting, but police and city leaders have said it was not relevant to her death.

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This story has been corrected to show Dean was commended in an evaluation in April this year, not in 2018.

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Information from: Fort Worth Star-Telegram, http://www.star-telegram.com

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