Police

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

Grand jury lets it go

|

Jerry Waller, on the right
Family photo

Last 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)