Fort Worth Community Reacts to Aaron Dean Verdict – NBC 5 Dallas-Fort Worth
The Aaron Dean Trial went to the punishment phase on Friday after a jury convicted a former Fort Worth police officer of manslaughter for shooting and killing Atatiana Jefferson.
While many think justice has been served in the case, some have a different perspective when it comes to Dean being convicted on the lesser charge.
NBC 5 spoke with a child, adolescent and adult psychiatrist about how the community can move forward and heal, now that a verdict has been reached.
Brian Dixon, MD, based in Fort Worthhas been following the case since the shooting occurred in October 2019.
He said the experience was not only traumatizing for the Jefferson family, but also for the black community in Fort Worth, especially after years of protests against the deaths of black men and women by law enforcement across the country. A trauma, he said he can relate to.
“As a black man living in Fort Worth, we’ve been through a lot in the last three or four years with COVID, and with all the kind of racial reconciliation work that’s been going on, it’s been a lot. Then when he adds specific cases of black men being shot by various law enforcement people across the country, it all comes back home,” he said. “So every day you wake up saying, ‘Oh my gosh, what else is going to happen? What else is going on? Living with that stress has been a lot.”
Watching the trial over the past few weeks has reopened a lot of that trauma for the community, Dixon said.
“I define trauma as anything that happens to you that is beyond your control, that fundamentally changes your understanding of the universe,” he said. “And every time that happens, and then you see it again, it’s basically a new injury every time you see it.”
Dixon is helping offer guidance to his peers and others within the community as Jefferson’s family, the city of Fort Worth, tries to move on after the jury’s decision.
He said that part of the healing process is recognizing that you can’t always control the outcome.
“But what you can do is control how you respond to the very end,” Dixon said. “Black people will find a way to keep us moving forward, to keep walking. It will not be easy. But I don’t want to give up yet. I’m very hopeful that something meaningful will come out of this.”
As reported since the verdict was read on ThursdayThere has been a strong reaction to Dean’s manslaughter conviction.
Dixon said it’s vitally important to process rather than react.
“Surround yourself with people who support you. And then give yourself a little break,” she said. “Do your individual work, whether it’s therapy for yourself or connecting with your family, to make sure you have support and people you can trust.”
There are also bigger steps one can take during this healing process and just getting out there and voting is an important step in the right direction.
“At the end of the day, you have to vote. You have to let your civic voice be heard. And that’s how you do it if you want better training for police officers, if you want to heal the black community, you have to vote, you have than letting your voice be heard,” Dixon said. “The thing about the legal system is that I always say that democracy is an exercise, it’s something you have to keep working on. And we have to keep working on it as a society.”
Encourage people to get involved in their community as well, whether through groups like the Tarrant County Coalition for Peace and Justice, business or non-profit organizations that support the black community and families in need.
Dixon said she knows that won’t immediately change the anger and disbelief many have after the trial and manslaughter verdict.
However, such a verdict is rare in the state of Texas and rare in the country. Juries often find police officers not guilty for killing civilians while on duty.