Police shooting is cause for alarm

Posted Wednesday, May. 29, 2013  comments  Print Reprints

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A Fort Worth homeowner is dead, two police officers have been placed on routine administrative leave and once again the police chief is asking for patience as the department investigates another tragic event.

Jerry Waller, 72, was shot to death early Tuesday at his Woodhaven home after police responded to a burglary call for a house across the street. Two uniformed officers, both of whom had been on the force less than a year, saw Waller with a gun and “felt threatened,” resulting in police shooting the resident, according to a police spokeswoman.

Police have not said whether only one or perhaps both officers fired their weapons, but the medical examiner said Waller was shot multiple times. Although the department spokeswoman said the officers encountered the homeowner at the back of his house near the garage and driveway, the medical examiner said Waller was pronounced dead inside his garage.

At this point there are more questions than answers, and it would be unwise and unfair to jump to conclusions. But regardless of what the facts ultimately show, this is an alarming tragedy.

A family and neighborhood are in mourning for a loved one and friend, and two officers and their families are dealing with a life-changing incident that no member of the force ever wants to face.

Patience indeed is called for as investigators search for the truth, but this not a case in which Police Chief Jeff Halstead can expect the community to wait a long time for answers.

It’s imperative that the department act expeditiously and transparently to provide information about what happened.

In addition, police will have to re-examine issues like training — when to shoot or don’t shoot — and procedural and policy matters involving how inexperienced officers are dispatched and supervised.

A thorough review will be valuable for residents and police, who face the threat of danger every time they make a call or stop a car for speeding.

Even without knowing all the details, this event provides a clear lesson for those who own firearms, even for use in protecting their homes. Those weapons must be put away or surrendered when police arrive to take charge.

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