Fort Worth PD Claims Homeowner Reached for Gun Before Being Shot, Officer Not Indicted

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After nearly an eight-month investigation into the shooting death of a homeowner by rookie a Fort Worth police officer, the autopsy report on the sequence of events prior to Jerry Waller’s death seems implausible, but the testimony of the responding officers and circumstantial forensic evidence was enough to circumvent a grand jury indictment, the Fort Worth Star-Telegram reports.

While responding to the incorrect address of a suspected residential burglary, Officer R.A. “Alex” Hoeppner shot at the 72-year-old grandfather seven times in his own garage. Hoeppner and his assigned partner, Ben Hanlon, testified that they confronted Waller after he was on his way outside to investigate a prowler, ordering him to drop his gun. Waller complied, but for unbeknownst reason supposedly picked up the gun again and leveled it at the officers before being killed.

Hanlon, who was dismissed from the FWPD for providing false information for an arrest affidavit in a separate incident, called in the shooting for an ambulance. His immediate account, which was acquired through a public records request, seems somewhat inconsistent. “The guy came out with a gun. He wouldn’t put the gun down. He pointed it at Hoeppner. Hoeppner fired.”

The officers acknowledged in their report that Waller did put the gun down, but they say he picked it back up after placing on a car in his garage. The wounds on Waller’s body indicate his arms were outstretched, as if he were holding something, according to the autopsy report.

I don’t have all the information and 25 hours of testimony that the grand jury used to reach a decision, but based on the telling so far, it’s understandable for people to suspect there’s a cover-up. As law enforcement officers themselves contend, police are trained to lie; it’s protocol. The public also needs to know what, if any, evidence was withheld from the grand jury. Even given the available information, had the consequences been reversed with a police officer killed by seven bullets, we can safely predict that the grand jury wouldn’t have been so understanding.

Supporters commenting on this story contend that mistakes happen and “it’s a learning issue.” We apparently need to learn to live with the idea that we can be defamed and have outrageous tales be told about us while in possession of a firearm, at least if the people scripting the account have official state sanction.

Maybe if there had been a film of the incident, there would be more credibility to the official story.

Image credit: appleswitch, with Creative Commons license