Cops Shot an Innocent Guy at the Wrong House Because It Was Dark, Say Fort Worth Police

Jerry and Kathleen WallerFamily Photo

As Scott Shackford noted at the time, Fort Worth, Texas, police shot 72-year-old Jerry Waller to death on his own property in May while responding to a reported burglary across the street. What they were doing on the man's property was an open question. Now, from a search warrant affidavit police wrote up to allow them to gather evidence that they had plugged the guy that they had just plugged, we know that the cops say they were lost because it was dark. And, there are a few questions about the veracity of their version of events.

From the just-released search warrant affidavit (PDF):

On Tuesday May 28, 2013, at approximately 0051 hours the Fort Worth Police Department Communications Division received a Residential Burglary Alarm originating from ADT Security Systems at 409 Havenwood Lane.

Fort Worth Police oficers, Officer B.B. Hanlon, ID 4080, and R.P. Hoeppner, ID 4066, assigned to the East Patrol Division were dispatched at approximately 0051 hour and arrived on the scene at approximately 0058 hours. Due to poor lighting conditions and officers attempting to arrive on the scene undetected by potential criminals and the need for officer safety confitions, Officers Hanlon and Hoeppner inadvertently began searching 404 Havenwood Lane, directly across the street from 409 Havenwood Lane.

Officers approached the west side of the house near the garage that is located on the southwest corner of the home with the knowledge that there was a possible burglary in progress. There is no lighting around the home and the officers had only the use of their flashlights.

As the officers approached the garage they encountered a subject who was armed with a handgun standing near the corner of the home. Officers identified their selves as police officers and ordered the subject to drop the handgun. The subject failed to comply and pointed the handgun at Officer Hoeppner and Officer Hoeppner fired on the subject fatally wounding him.

Note that the affidavit asserts that Kathleen Waller, Jerry Waller's freshly minted widow, "has possession of and is concealing evidence of a homicide." That homicide presumably being the killing of her husband by Forth Worth police. This is probably standard phrasing for these legal documents, but still ...

So, we know that Officers and Hanlon were at the Waller residence because they were so concerned for "officer safety conditions" that they didn't use their flashlights to check the street address. They then prowled around a property, the owner of which had no reason to expect visitors. As his family said in a statement:

On the night of his death, Jerry heard noise behind the house, and went to investigate. He picked up his gun as protection. While no one in the family was present at the instant of his death, his body was witnessed immediately after, inside his own garage. We were disturbed by suggestions that police may have felt threatened by a man in his own garage faced with unknown trespassers wielding flashlights.

The family says that Waller was "inside his own garage," while police say he was "standing near the corner of the home." Family members flat-out accuse the police of lying, with son Chris Waller asserting, "“My father never stepped outside of his garage. He was shot multiple times in the chest only a few steps away from the doorway to his kitchen."

In the latest news report, the Fort Worth Star-Telegram says, "Waller was pronounced dead at 1:26 a.m. inside the garage." Unless he crawled there with a reported six wounds to the chest...

I'm not sure it should matter, either way. The officers were stamping around a private residence, in the dark, without permission.

The Star-Telegram also reports:

An autopsy on Waller has also been completed.

On Wednesday, however, the Tarrant County district attorney’s office sent a letter to the attorney general’s office, contending that the autopsy report should not be released to the Star-Telegram because of the pending investigation.

By the way, many of the businesses in my town use ADT Security. The systems falsely alarm so often that the police department started charging for responses. They're generally pretty good about checking the street address, though.

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  • EDG reppin' LBC||

    Fuck tha police!

  • ||

    I approve of this message, as noted by the sign saying same in my cubicle.

  • EDG reppin' LBC||

    You have an interesting business environment. When I was in cubicle hell, my boss would have shit his pants if I had that sign in my cubicle. And then fired me.

  • ||

    My hatred of the police is well known at my workplace.

  • Longtorso, Johnny||

    Fort Worth, Texas, police shot 72-year-old Jerry Waller to death

    ...Cleveland Browns...

  • EDG reppin' LBC||

    What about the Browns?

  • NoTalentAssclown||

    You know, the way the Cowboys have been playing lately...

  • Andrew S.||

    Totatlity of the circs, good shoot, he deserved to get shot for having a gun while unknown people are wandering around the house. He should have known they were cops searching for a violent burglary circumstances. IDKFAIDDQDIDSPISPOPD, it was a good shoot, haters and trolls.

    Now if you'll excuse me, I need to go do some powerlifting on my way to a surfing competition.

  • Andrew S.||

    Er, that's supposed to be "violent burglary suspect". Apparently typing like that caused me to go brainless for some reason.

  • EDG reppin' LBC||

    I thought you were replacing Slash at a Velvet Revolver concert tonight? And later, you were going to bang your wife, Morgan Fairchild.

  • ||

    -i/23.5,

    OLYMPIC weightlifting lol. get it right bigoratroll.

    hth

  • Ted S.||

    In real life, Dunphy trains at Curves.

  • Nando||

    STOP RESISTING

  • ||

    Officer Hoeppner and Officer Hoeppner fired on the subject fatally wounding him.

    This is probably the most shocking part of the report. They used the active verb. The guns didn't fire themselves. Amazing.

  • Paul.||

    The shooting wasn't accidental. No need for passive voice. They were firing at someone pointing a weapon at them, after identifying themselves and the subject refused orders to drop the weapon.

    Justified.

  • DEATFBIRSECIA||

    Sure if you believe their version of the events.

    You might have missed the part, though, where they were lying out their ass:

    In the latest news report, the Fort Worth Star-Telegram says, "Waller was pronounced dead at 1:26 a.m. inside the garage." Unless he crawled there with a reported six wounds to the chest...

    Gullible much?

  • Paul.||

    Welcome to Hit And Run. I'm Paul.

  • DEATFBIRSECIA||

    Looking farther downthread, it appears I my sarcdar may have been malfunctioning.

  • Paul.||

    It's my fault.

    everyone here always puts /sarc tags on their posts. I don't. I take my humor product seriously, and I feel that if I offer a roadmap to the joke, it's ruined.

    However, I do admit my post was pretty subtle and wouldn't be caught easily. Perhaps my sarcasm was too close to reality.

  • sarcasmic||

    I'm not sure it should matter, either way.

    It should matter because the entire report could be fiction. Like, for example, the part where they identify themselves before opening fire.

  • Paul.||

    This is where liberals are going to get their best argument for gun control. If you try to defend your family, home and property from a dark figure flitting about your backyard, it may be a cop, and the cop will be justified in killing you.

  • NoVAHockey||

    I've heard that line before.

  • Lyle||

    Busting into the wrong house has got to be criminal negligence.

  • TexLawyer||

    Probably not. Picking the wrong house was certainly unreasonable but given that it was dark and they were not using their flashlights for safety reasons, it probably doesn't rise to the level of gross negligence.

  • Paul.||

    Mistakes will be made, cops will hit the wrong doors, they will respond to the wrong address. It's the outcome of those mistakes that makes it just a mistake or a tragedy.

    Something has to be done to get less trigger-happy cops on the force. Something.

  • Andrew S.||

    There are two things that could possibly cause it to stop. One are actual punishments for doing this, whether termination or, more deservedly, prison time. The other thing that could possibly put a stop to this kind of thing happening would be if payments for inevitable lawsuits came out of the police officers' paychecks, or the pension fund, rather than out of the hands of taxpayers.

    Neither of those things will ever happen though. Nothing will chance, and this will keep happening.

  • ||

    I think the fact it's an odd-even difference should make it negligence. The house should (unless this town is different from anywhere I've ever been) have been on the opposite side of the street.

  • Lyle||

    I'm not a lawyer but I think it should constitute gross negligence. Nighttime is no defense to not knowing what house you're supposed to be checking on. If you aren't sure you don't just barge in you wait and find out, or do nothing and wait for someone to come out the house.

  • Troglodyte Rex||

    Irrelevant. Google maps.

  • TexLawyer||

    Not that it excuses or makes up for this guy's death, but I believe one of the responding officers was a rookie, which might partially explain the mistake and the trigger happy response.

    It sounds like this affidavit is full of b.s. and is nothing more than a blatant attempt by the officers to cover up for their own. It in no way resembles what was reported back when it happened.

  • Ted S.||

    Those Asiana Airlines pilots (please no dumb jokes about their names) supposedly had little experience on the type of plane they were flying, and that's cause to excoriate them.

    Police have little experience and kill somebody, and the response seems to be meh.

  • Arrow to the knee||

    I love dumb jokes

  • Generic Stranger||

    I liked dumb jokes too, until I read an arrow to the knee.

  • Aresen||

    I'd like to make a sarcastic post, but this story is too horrible.

    My condolences to Kathleen Waller and her family.

  • Tonio||

    ^This.

  • Paul.||

    Imagine, for a moment, Jerry Waller had shot a cop, because Waller saw a dark figure with a drawn firearm coming towards him.

    Imagine... for a moment... the consequences Waller would now be facing.

    Higher...standards.

  • DEATFBIRSECIA||

    Cory Maye?

  • Andrew S.||

    I was thinking Ryan Frederick.

    Either way, he'd be sitting in a jail cell right now.

  • Ted S.||

    That, of course, is because the totality of the circomstances would be different.

  • The Late P Brooks||

    These hardworking professional law enforcers cannot be expected to know which side of the street is odd, and which is even. Not when their primary responsibility is to get home safely at the end of their shifts.

  • ||

    Police departments should require at least 6 months of pizza delivery experience for all applicants.

  • wareagle||

    +1 Beretta.

  • Zeb||

    Or mail delivery or parcel delivery or meter reading. There are loads of jobs which require people to go to specific addresses and somehow those people manage to do so without shooting any people or dogs.

  • ||

    Why do I completely not believe any of their story? Oh right, because they're lying pigs who killed an innocent man.

  • Paul.||

    Consequences for an unjustified shooting are steep. Like, three days of unpaid leave.

  • Swamp Think||

    +1 grievance
    +1 arbitration
    +1 check cut for missed overtime

  • Dave Krueger||

    On Wednesday, however, the Tarrant County district attorney’s office sent a letter to the attorney general’s office, contending that the autopsy report should not be released to the Star-Telegram because of the pending investigation....

    Yeah, autopsy reports should never be released until the cops have a change to fabricate a story that comes as close as possible to matching any evidence that is likely to ever become public.

  • ||

    by moving around your muscles move. If you are in a certain position and are shot, when you fall down or relax the bullet path through your muscles will not line up. The coroner can realign the bullet path by moving your body around and determine what position you were in when you were shot.

    I wonder if the autopsy indicates mr wallets position was different than the assassins claim it was

  • Nazdrakke||

    Fucking This^

  • ||

    Ah Ft. Worthless. Making sure Dallas has something to look down on since 1849.

  • ||

    Uh...don't you live in Ft. Worth, JJ? Doesn't Mary?

  • ||

    Fuck no, I live in Plano, a rich suburb of north Dallas.

    Mary is an excellent example of the caliber of people you'll find in Ft. Worth. It isn't "collectivist", so don't even start in with that shit. I've met every single resident of Ft. Worth, and they're all stupid hicks, and everybody on my side of Arlington is objectively better than everyone on their side.

  • NoTalentAssclown||

    This is also why people think people in Dallas are snobby

  • Terr||

    It is a very accurate portrayal of a fucking Dallasite.

  • ||

    Ah, yes. Nothing says "suck it, poor people" like living in a 4-bedroom $250K home in the hottest, crappiest part of the 'Midwest'.

  • Ted S.||

    But it's all still Texas.

  • The Late P Brooks||

    Officers identified their selves as police officers

    Umm, yeah.

    BLAMBLAMBLAM! "How could he not have known we were cops?"

    And then:

    the affidavit asserts that Kathleen Waller, Jerry Waller's freshly minted widow, "has possession of and is concealing evidence of a homicide."

    My money's on "security cam recording".

  • SugarFree||

    Officers trespassed on the west side of the wrong house near the garage that is located on the southwest corner of the wrong home with the knowledge that there was a possible burglary in progress across the street. There is no lighting around the wrong home and the officers had only the use of their flashlights.

    As the officers approached the wrong garage they encountered an innocent man who was carrying a handgun he was legally entitled to be holding on his own property standing near the corner of his home. The trespassing officers might have identified their selves as police officers and might have ordered the innocent elderly man to drop the handgun he was legally entitled to be holding on his own property. The innocent elderly man might have failed to comply to orders that might have been issued and might have pointed the handgun he was legally entitled to be holding on his own property at Officer Hoeppner and Officer Hoeppner two unknown trespassers who murdered him with a hail of bullets.
  • ||

    New. Professionalism.

  • Jerry on the boat||

    Google Maps wasn't working for them?!

  • The Late P Brooks||

    Officers identified their selves as police officers

    Umm, yeah.

    BLAMBLAMBLAM! "How could he not have known we were cops?"

    And then:

    the affidavit asserts that Kathleen Waller, Jerry Waller's freshly minted widow, "has possession of and is concealing evidence of a homicide."

    My money's on "security cam recording".

  • sarcasmic||

    I dunno. If that was the case, and the recording showed the officers' statements to be lies, I'd have given a copy to every news outlet I could think of.

  • A Serious Man||

    Those two officers were just making sure they made it home that night. Mr. Waller was already home anyway.

  • The Late P Brooks||

    Skwerled again.

  • The Late P Brooks||

    I believe one of the responding officers was a rookie, which might partially explain the mistake and the trigger happy response.

    And think we all know the harsh consequences he'll suffer for his "youthfully overenthusiastic response" to the situation.

    And those cops will all learn a valuable lesson.

  • Andrew S.||

    I'm sure that paid vacation will teach him a lesson he'll never forget.

  • JW||

    Note that the affidavit asserts that Kathleen Waller, Jerry Waller's freshly minted widow, "has possession of and is concealing evidence of a homicide." That homicide presumably being the killing of her husband by Forth Worth police.

    Have they sent the bill for the bullets to her, yet?

  • AlmightyJB||

    Reason always trying to put me in a foul mood going into the weekend with there asshole murderer cop stories.

  • BiMonSciFiCon||

    If I am going to a location I've never been to, Siri helpfully tells me which side of the street my destination will be on. This man died because those cops did not know how to use Siri. They're going to get fired, right?

  • John||

    The man died because the cop was a trigger happy coward who shot the guy rather than take the small risk of being shot in order to defuse the situation.

  • John||

    It is pretty well known that Texas has liberal gun laws and many home owners have guns. Given that fact, it would seem that the ability to confront an armed innocent home owner without shooting him would be a skill that Fort Worth would want their cops to have.

    It really comes down to cops being incredible cowards and careless ones at that. First, only a complete idiot would go wandering through strange houses without alerting the homeowner to their presence. Second, any fucking idiot can just shoot. It takes balls to stop and think and make sure the guy knows you are a cop and doesn't shoot you. The failure to do that is criminal. This is a case of flat out manslaughter. I wouldn't go with murder because the dumb ass cop no doubt really thought he was in danger. And hell, he may have been. But his failure to properly identify himself and defuse the situation, created whatever danger was there and his behavior amounts to depraved indifference.

  • SugarFree||

    Not manslaughter. The homeowner was shot during the commission of another crime: trespassing.

  • John||

    I don't think the cops were trespassing. Being there by mistake does not make it trespassing. Every time a cop fucks up and goes to a wrong address, that is not trespassing.

  • SugarFree||

    If I wander onto your property with a gun drawn, am I trespassing? How about if I walk into your garage? Especially if I'm doing it so as to not alert you to my presence?

    But you're right, manslaughter would hold up better... if there wasn't a gross double standard for cops.

  • ||

    In Texas, approaching an occupied dwelling at night by stealth constitutes evidence of intent to commit a crime, and justifies self-defense on the part of the resident(s).

    Police are not exempted from the requirement to announce themselves.

    If the homeowner had shot both cops, no crime would have been committed.

  • sarcasmic||

    If the homeowner had shot both cops, no crime would have been committed.

    True. But he still would have been executed by the next wave of officers.

  • Eduard van Haalen||

    Since the cops didn't leak information about anything bad in the guy's background, I'm presuming he was a productive citizen living out a well-deserved retirement. And he ends his life shot down like a dog by some idiots who couldn't tell a "4" from a "9." Who now want to search the house by accusing the widow of concealing evidence.

    Don't they have an Internal Affairs division? Shouldn't these be the guys doing the investigation, seeking the voluntary cooperation of the widow?

  • Eduard van Haalen||

    I don't mean the specific idiots who did the shooting want to investigate the alleged crime scene.

  • MasterDarque||

    Thank the Lord above we have these heroes watching over us. Amen

  • ||

    Officers identified their selves as police officers...

    identified their selves

    their selves

    Looks like their English is about as good as their cipherin'

  • Render Unto Caesar||

  • Alan||

    A tragedy and a bungled operation, and certainly the officers lied to cover their asses - but pretty low down on the list of police abuses.

    These cops were, after all, investigating an actual crime, and did shoot a man with an actual gun. That's two things that are missing from most of the cases we hear about.

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