Dean, 35, said in his interview to join the police force that his 2004 assault charge stemmed from touching a woman’s breast in college.
The personnel file for former Fort Worth police Officer Aaron Dean, who resigned after he fatally shot Atatiana Jefferson in her home last month, sheds light on his training and background, including a misdemeanor assault charge.
Fort Worth police released hundreds of pages of records and a 17-minute video from Dean’s job interview in response to a request from The Dallas Morning News and other news organizations. KXAS-TV (NBC5) first reported on the contents of Dean’s personnel file.
Dean, 35, is charged with murder in 28-year-old Jefferson’s death. He fatally shot her through a bedroom window of her mother’s home early Oct. 12 after a neighbor called a non-emergency line to report that the doors to the home were open and lights were on. He is the first officer to be charged with murder in Tarrant County.
Here’s what the records show:
Dean received an assault citation for touching a woman’s breast in college
In his application to work for the Fort Worth police department, Dean described what led to the charge in 2004. He said he was in the library at the University of Texas at Arlington flirting with a fellow student.
“During the course of this exchange, I put my arms around her, and at one point stroked her breast,” he wrote in the application. “She told me this made her uncomfortable and asked me to stop, which I immediately did, quite embarrassed and apologetic.”
When asked about the incident during his job interview, he said he had asked the woman not to report it, saying he was “in a very conservative church at the time” and feared backlash.
“What’s changed since then,” Dean said in the interview, “is being careful about my actions and how they’re perceived by others and being sure that I consider others’ viewpoints and what their expectations of relationships are.”
The woman later reported the incident to Arlington police, who cited Dean for simple assault, he said. He pleaded no contest and paid a fine, he said.
Dean also completed a sexual harassment training module required by the university, he said in the application.
A handwritten note in the application file indicates the charge was a Class C misdemeanor.
Although several pages in the file were redacted, there was no indication that Arlington police records that would detail the incident were included, nor was there any indication the woman involved had been contacted as part of the hiring process.
In response to questions about how the department weighed the assault charge when deciding whether to hire Dean, a Fort Worth police spokesman said the misdemeanor charge was “given significant scrutiny during the hiring process,” without elaborating.
Dean’s attorney, Jim Lane, declined to comment on the assault charge, citing a gag order that prevents attorneys and prosecutors from speaking publicly about the criminal case.
Dean described two other run-ins with police in his application — once in 2005 when he went into a Taco Bell with an airsoft pistol strapped to his hip, prompting a patron to call police. An officer “responded and gave me a stern verbal warning for my recklessness and disturbance of everyone’s day,” Dean wrote.
The following year, Dean and a group of friends were playing with airsoft guns in a creek bed near a church in Fort Worth. Someone who lived nearby called police, and responding officers “arrived on scene, ordered us to drop our guns, and after checking IDs, told us to find private property to game on,” he wrote in the application.
During his training, two officers expressed concerns about his ‘tunnel vision’
Two officers noted concerns about Dean getting “tunnel vision” in his training records.
In one report dated May 25, 2018 — a little over a month after Dean joined the force officially — a sergeant wrote that Dean was doing well in the areas of officer safety and navigation. But the sergeant said Dean needed improvement using his radio, noting that he missed calls for help and gets “tunnel vision and hearing.”
A few days later, another officer wrote in a report that Dean’s weakness was communication.
“When instructing or speaking with PO, I have noticed that PO will sometimes not look in my direction, almost seems like he’s ignoring me. I have had to repeat myself or tell PO to acknowledge what I just said,” the officer wrote.
That officer echoed concerns about tunnel vision, writing that Dean “will be so engrossed with what he’s doing, he gets tunnel vision and will not hear what’s being instructed.”
During an evaluation in April, Dean earned 3.5 stars out of four and was praised for making “sound decisions based on his level of experience.” He was expected to improve as his time with the department increased.
He was also praised for his abilities, which were compared to more veteran officers’.
“You are a young officer working at a level commonly seen from more experienced officers. Keep up the good work! Never stop learning!” a handwritten comment from a supervisor said.
He joined the force after a career in engineering
Dean attended the University of Texas at Arlington and graduated with a bachelor’s degree in physics after he was home-schooled in high school.
He had an internship at Vought Aircraft Industries while he was still in college, which he reported he was fired from after “repeated tardiness.” He then began working as an engineer at Traulsen Refrigeration in Fort Worth after he graduated, according to his application. He still held that job when he applied to work as a Fort Worth officer in January 2017, his application indicates.
In his job interview, one interviewer asked Dean why he wanted to take his career in a different direction.
He answered that he had two reasons — first, he had wanted to be in the military when he was younger and said he wished he had done so, and second, that he found a desk job unfulfilling and wanted a job in which he could interact with people.
Toward the end of his job interview, one of the interviewers asked Dean: “Will you be able to kill somebody if you have to?”
He answered quickly: “No problem.”
Fort Wort police spokesman, Sgt. Chris Daniels, said in an email that although it’s important during an interview process to determine whether an applicant has any reservations about performing police duties, that question should have been asked differently, “as the use of deadly force is meant to stop a suspect from engaging in deadly conduct rather than end their life.”
“It’s called deadly force because it may have that unfortunate result,” he said in response to questions about whether the question was typical in police job interviews.
Also during Dean’s job interview, an interviewer asked him whether there was ever a “time to fight.” He said it was appropriate if there was an imminent threat and mentioned that he had a license to carry a firearm, which he carried every day.
Elsewhere in his application, Dean said he owned four firearms.