Bishop Michael Olson issues statement regarding community response to trial of Aaron Dean
FORT WORTH — Most Reverend Michael Olson, Bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Fort Worth, issued a statement on Dec. 13 regarding the community response to issues surrounding the trial of Aaron Dean for the murder of Atatiana Jefferson.
The trial, which was postponed multiple times but is now in its fifth day, has been a topic of much local interest and opinion.
Both the defense and prosecution agree that on October 12, 2019, Dean, a Fort Worth police officer at the time, conducted a welfare check on Jefferson after a neighbor reported her front door was open and shot her through a window. In his defense, Dean has testified that she was holding a gun and he feared for his safety, although he acknowledges that he did not identify himself as a police officer.
Dean resigned from the police force two days after the shooting.
In his statement, Bishop Olson remarked, “The tragic death by gunshot of Atatiana Jefferson in her own home and in the presence of her young nephew naturally evokes emotions of grief, fear, and anger within each of us as fellow human beings. These emotions should not prompt anyone to turn to violence, intimidation, or lawlessness as tactics to protest injustice and express a desire for justice for individuals and for our larger community.”
He continued, “Nobody benefits from such tactics whether they be employed by people within our community or by people who have come from other places for advocacy of their cause. Those who are poor and most vulnerable in our society are the most jeopardized by such tactics.
“The current trial of Aaron Dean for the murder of Atatiana Jefferson, whatever verdict it delivers, should prompt our community not to be indifferent to Atatiana’s death but to face our fears and to resolve to work together on addressing such pressing social and moral issues as race, gun violence, police security, and the rule of law for the common good and protection of the vulnerable of our community.
“Law is rightly understood as an ordinance of reason, not as the imposition of will to power by any individual or political group of individuals upon other members of society or upon society itself. This is an indispensable measurement for us in our desire for peace and in our shared work for justice.”
Bishop Olson, the spiritual leader of 1.2 million Catholics in 28 counties in North Texas, expressed a similar appeal in his June 4, 2020, homily at the Mass offered for the repose of the soul of George Floyd and for peace and an end to civil discord, saying, “Justice is the need and responsibility of everyone. Peace is the need and responsibility of everyone. We can only achieve them if we work towards them together, and we cannot achieve them without recognizing that justice and peace come from God, and we need Him.”
Bishop Olson acknowledged that Christians are preparing to celebrate the birth of the Savior in less than two weeks, a season of peace and love.
In his Dec. 13 statement regarding the Aaron Dean trial, the bishop concluded, “This time of year when Christians celebrate the birth of Jesus, hailed as the Prince of Peace, it is also a time for everyone to ask God for our deliverance from violence, our conversion of heart and mind from fears and prejudices against those who are strangers to us, and for the inspiration and willingness to change and to do what God asks in treating each person as our neighbor worthy of respect, attention, and love.”