DALLAS (AP) — A former Dallas police officer is not guilty of assault in the fatal shooting of a 21-year-old woman in January 2017, a jury decided Thursday.

Christopher Hess was charged with aggravated assault by a public servant in the shooting of Genevive Dawes. A Dallas County jury returned the verdict after two days of deliberations. Hess could have been sentenced to from five years to life in prison if he had been found guilty.

Hess, 42, was one of two officers who responded to a suspicious persons call in January 2017. They found Dawes and another person asleep in a car that had been reported stolen, police said. Dawes ignored commands to exit the vehicle, reversed into a police cruiser, rammed a fence and was backing up again when the officers opened fire, police said.

Hess shot into the car a dozen times. Prosecutors argued that his actions were unreasonable. The former officer did not testify in his defense but his lawyers told the court that the shooting was justified because the car was a threat.

A grand jury returned the charge against Hess months after the confrontation, which at the time made him the first Dallas officer in more than four decades to be indicted in a deadly police shooting. Since then, several other North Texas officers have been charged in fatal shootings.

Hess was fired in July 2017 after an internal investigation found he violated the department's felony traffic stop policy, use of force policy and placed a person in greater danger than necessary.

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