No Charges for Texas Officer Who Shot Innocent Man at Own Home

Jerry Waller, on the rightFamily photoLast May, a 72-year-old man in the Fort Worth, Texas, area was shot to death by police investigating a burglar alarm across the street from his home. They were on his property, unaware they were at the wrong address, there was some sort of confrontation, and the man, Jerry Waller, was armed, possibly thinking there were intruders. Police shot him seven times.

Yesterday, a grand jury declined to charge the officer responsible for the innocent man’s death. Courtesy of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram:

The decision not to indict R.A. “Alex” Hoeppner in the death of Jerry Waller came a week after prosecutors began presenting the case.

Waller died May 28 after being shot multiple times by Hoeppner as the officer and partner Ben Hanlon searched for a possible suspect after being dispatched to a burglary alarm call across the street.

Hanlon, who did not fire his gun, was dismissed from the department in October in an unrelated matter.

Police Chief Jeff Halstead said the grand jury made the right decision.

“I think it was proven through the autopsy and evidence that a gun was pointed directly at officer Hoeppner and he was forced to make his decision …” Halstead said, explaining that the trajectory of Waller’s wounds shows that the homeowner had his arm outstretched, as if pointing a gun.

That the police were trespassing is apparently irrelevant. They claim they identified themselves to Waller before opening fire. The family, of course, has doubts about the police’s story. Even the chief of police couldn’t explain why Waller would open fire on the officers if they had identified themselves. (Oh, and the unrelated matter that Officer Hanlon was dismissed for was for allegedly providing false information about an arrest at a traffic stop.)

Here’s an invitation to visualize the opposite happening. What if Waller had killed Hoeppner, thinking the officer was an intruder, instead of the other way around? Would the grand jury have let Waller go?

(Hat tip to CharlesWT)

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  • Sal Paradise||

    And nothing else happened

  • sarcasmic||

    Halstead said, explaining that the trajectory of Waller’s wounds shows that the homeowner had his arm outstretched, as if pointing a gun.

    Or pleading for his life.

  • Pro Libertate||

    I recall reading somewhere that a lot of face-on shootings include injuries to the arms and/or hands as people instinctively raise their arms to block the bullets. No idea how true that is, but if it is common, that would seem to weaken their argument considerably.

  • MJGreen||

    Stretching out his arm to call for the cops to calm down.

    Pointing away. telling them to get the hell off his property.

    Instinctively trying to block his body.

    Stretching his arms with his palms out, begging for forgiveness.

    Putting his arms up and away from where his gun was, perhaps as the cops ordered him to do.

    Lots of possible explanations, but let's listen to the cop's lying partner.

  • sarcasmic||

    He lied about an unrelated matter. There is no pattern of dishonesty. Nothing to see here. Move along.

  • Cdr Lytton||

    Or he didn't lie about the other matter but the department wanted to destroy his credibility in this case. Note that Hanlon didn't back his brother cop by joining in the Iraqi death blossom.

  • Mainer2||

    Lots of possible explanations

    Well sure, but let's apply Occam's razor. The most likely is that the man drew his gun and pointed it at two policeman that had identified themselves as police. Isn't that what most people would do.

    Seriously, it's like they know they don't even have to come up with a Plausible bullshit story. Any bullshit will do.

  • MasterDarque||

    Fucking sad

  • JW||

    What if Waller had killed Hoeppner, thinking the officer was an intruder, instead of the other way around? Would the grand jury have let Waller go?

    AHAHAHAHAHAHAHA..... HAHAHhahahaha....hahaha....ehhhh....

    Good one.

  • JW||

    Halstead said, explaining that the trajectory of Waller’s wounds shows that the homeowner had his arm outstretched, as if pointing a gun.

    He should have called the highly trained and professional local police to protect his property from intruders.

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    Oh, and the unrelated matter that Officer Hanlon was dismissed for was for allegedly providing false information about an arrest at a traffic stop.

    That seems like it could be related, if they're at all including his testimony about the killing.

  • Notorious G.K.C.||

    I suspect the grand jury was hamstrung with instructions that if a homeowner points a gun at officer Friendly, then Officer Friendly gets to kill the homeowner. Never mind that Officer Friendly, by trespassing, started the chain of events leading directly to the homeowner's death.

    Whose fault is it that they can't tell the different between a street address of 409 and a street address of 404? There ought to be a law that if you make a boneheaded mistake like that, leading to an innocent homeowner's death, then you're at fault.

  • sarcasmic||

    It's all about public trust. If officers are found to be at fault for killing citizens, then citizens might lose trust in their public servants. Therefore officers must be found to not be at fault, even when they are. Because public trust is more important than justice.

  • thom||

    I wish that were the reason. As fucked up as it is, on a certain practical level it makes a kind of sense. But it feels like the actual reason is that police, or "law enforcement officers" as they now insist on being called, have actually just become a privileged class. They are allowed to operate outside of the law, accountable to no one, systematically victimizing innocent people for little to no reason. There's no practical reason for it beyond the fact that they've insisted on having this special status and society at large has acquiesced.

  • Mainer2||

    Just a side note, but did anyone else notice how Ramos and Cicinelli, the two that killed Kelly Thomas became "peace officers".

  • DEATFBIRSECIA||

    Now they just shorten it to LEO, the predatory creatures known as lions.

    Seems about right.

  • Ron||

    it's like Judge Dredd out there. The police now think they are the jury the judge and executioner, they are the LAW.

  • croaker||

    "If officers are found to be at fault for killing citizens, then citizens might lose trust in their public servants."

    Too late.

  • Notorious G.K.C.||

    I just hope there isn't a *T.A.* Hoeppner out there with an arrest warrant on him.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nWbIxFKtTmE

  • Notorious G.K.C.||

    "You killed Buttle?"

    "Sam, there are very rigid parameters laid down to prevent such things happening. It wasn't my fault that Buttle's heart condition didn't appear on Tuttle's file."

  • Mainer2||

    What if Waller had killed Hoeppner, thinking the officer was an intruder, instead of the other way around? Would the grand jury have let Waller go?

    Obviously not. But the logic of how we get to that conclusion is maddening. Because the police are professionals, and held to a higher standard, they can kill a man under questionable circumstances. Whereas a private citizen is held to a lower standard, and therefore anything less than an air-tight, iron clad case of self defense is grounds for an indictment. Far too many of my fellow citizens accept that "logic"

  • Pro Libertate||

    It should be the reverse, actually. An untrained person dealing with an armed intrusion maybe should get some leeway. Trained people shouldn't, as part of their training should be to understand that they could be making a mistake.

  • Mainer2||

    Indeed. We've had a couple killings here in NH that are talked about on the radio, and I try to get my head around how people can think....well he's a highly trained professional, so we need to give him leeway....or maybe because he's a highly trained professional, it MUST have been a good shoot, because he would know, being a professional and all.

  • sarcasmic||

    Circular logic is circular.

  • Almanian (yeah, I said it)||

    Whew. I can rest easy now.

    And Mr. Waller gets to rest in peace - so everybody wins!

  • Almanian (yeah, I said it)||

    PS Your SURE you're not Balko under a pseudonym, Shackford? Cause my nuts HURT...

  • creech||

    Just one more example of why you shouldn't ditch jury service if called. When else in life will your one vote have more effect on government's actions??

  • datcv||

    I've REALLY wanted to serve on a jury, but I have never been called. :(

    I think I'm in a database of anti-government libertarians who shall never be called for jury duty.

  • sarcasmic||

    I was called once. It turned out the voter registration they got my address from was out of date and from a different county. First thing they did was threaten to throw me in jail for not updating my address, but the threats stopped when they figured out that it was their fault. Either way I couldn't serve because I resided in a different county than the court.

  • Dr. Frankenstien||

    About 20 years ago I was called for jury duty before I ever heard of libertarianism. I don't remember what the exact question was but the defense attorney asked me something along the lines if I thought police would lie about evidence. Without thinking about it I said, "Why not? They're human." Prosecution didn't want me for some reason.

  • BuSab Agent||

    I've been called four times and never been seated on a jury. The first time I had to the courthouse every day for a month. Every day I would be bounced off by voir dire and returned to the pool. My boss fired me after I finally returned from jury duty. The second time was in a different county, and I only had to go the one time, but still not selected (med mal birth injury case... defense was leery having a mother of five apparently). Third time, I returned the card but they never called me in. Fourth time, I said fuck it and threw the card in the trash.
    So long story short, in my experience, your libertarianism will leak out around the edges even if you answer very very carefully and you will never be seated.

  • creech||

    Maybe so, but the one time I was called I ended up serving in a slip and fall liability case. After getting a big settlement from the insurer of the retail store leasing the space, the injured party wanted to double dip against the absentee landlord who had an ironclad contract that the lease was responsible for snow and ice removal on the sidewalk. Anyway, the initial vote was 9-3 to give the injured another wad of cash. I spoke up, etc. etc. and we eventually voted 9-3 in favor of the
    defendant. Small victory against the usual tort outcomes.

  • Anomalous||

    Where's Dunphy to copsplain this to us?

  • PRX||

    even if justified and it wasn't, why was he not fired for killing an innocent man? that's a major fuckup.

  • sarcasmic||

    I've overheard drunk cops talk about how they took the job hoping they would have the opportunity to kill someone.

    Killing an innocent man is not a fuckup to them. It's a dream come true.

  • The Late P Brooks||

    explaining that the trajectory of Waller’s wounds shows that the homeowner had his arm outstretched, as if pointing a gun.

    Or, perhaps, he was pointing to the house across the street.

    "It's over there, you morons."

    *BLAMBLAMBLAM*

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