Woodhaven resident shot by police was pronounced dead inside his garage

Posted Thursday, May. 30, 2013  comments  Print Reprints

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A 72-year-old Woodhaven resident fatally shot by police officers investigating a burglary call was pronounced dead inside his garage, the Tarrant County medical examiner said Wednesday.

Police have said that two patrol officers encountered an armed Jerry Waller at the back of his house “near the garage- driveway area.” They have not specifically said where Waller was when he was shot.

But Waller’s son, Chris Waller, said in an email to the Star-Telegram that the police account of the shooting is inaccurate. “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,” Chris Waller said.

The family has scheduled a news conference for later Wednesday afternoon.

Sgt. Kelly Peel, a police spokesman, identified the two officers involved in the incident as R.A. Hoeppner and B.B. Hanlon. Both officers were commissioned in October, he said.

Waller died around 1 a.m. Tuesday at his home in the 400 block of Havenwood Lane North. The medical examiner said the cause of death was “multiple gunshot wounds.”

Police said the patrol officers were in uniform and driving marked cars when they responded to a report of a burglar alarm at a house across the street from Waller’s.

Cpl. Tracey Knight, a police spokeswoman, said she could not say whether both officers fired their weapons or whether Waller fired his handgun. The officers “felt threatened,” she said.

“This is a terrible tragedy for everyone,” Knight said. “A family has lost a loved one and a police officer has gone through a critical incident that no officer wishes for. Our hearts go out to the family of the homeowner as well as the officer and his family.”

The shooting happened in a quiet, tree-filled neighborhood that borders Woodhaven County Club. Neighbors said crime has been largely nonexistent over the past year.

On Tuesday evening, Waller’s brother and sister, interviewed outside the house, said they were not surprised that he might have grabbed a gun to investigate a burglar alarm going off.

Sister Janice Chumley of Weatherford said Waller had a “heart of gold,” and it was characteristic of him to look out for neighbors.

Brother Johnny Waller of Plano said his brother was not hard of hearing.

“For his age, Jerry was a physical specimen,” his brother said. “He worked out at the gym. If the police said, ‘Drop the weapon,’ he’d have done exactly that.

“Jerry was a law-abiding citizen.”

The two officers, both of whom have been with the department for less than a year, were responding to a residential alarm call when, for reasons still under investigation, they ended up at the residence across the street.

“Policies and procedures were followed,” Knight said. “Officers are taught when they go to a call to survey the entire landscape and not just the small area of where the call is.”

The two officers have been placed on routine administrative leave, she said.

Police Chief Jeff Halstead issued a statement asking for patience as officers investigate the shooting.

“The events that took place the early morning hours on May 28th will require a significant amount of investigative effort; however, we remain committed to working with our residents and making this process efficient and transparent,” he said.

“I ask for your patience, your understanding, and most importantly, your prayers for all involved.”

Awakened by gunshots

The two patrol officers had responded to a report of a burglar alarm in the 400 block of Havenwood Lane North shortly before 1 a.m., police said.

Former Fort Worth City Councilwoman Becky Haskin said she was awakened by gunfire at 1:07 a.m.

“The shots came really rapidly one after another,” she said. “My husband, who knows a lot about firearms, said he thought it was the police because of the way the shots came so fast.”

Immediately, other officers swarmed the street, which backs up to Woodhaven Country Club. Haskin said some officers went through her back yard to get to the golf course.

Shocked neighbors were trying to determine what happened, she said.

“I was told by an officer that [Waller] wouldn’t put his gun down,” Haskin said. “It is really an awful, terrible thing.”

She said that Waller’s wife spent the early morning hours in a police car and that officers wouldn’t allow Haskin to speak with her. She was later taken away by ambulance.

“I just wanted to know if she was OK,” Haskin said.

Janice Chumley said Jerry Waller’s wife, Kathy, is a native of Great Britain who met her husband in Tulsa, Okla., when they were in their mid-20s. Jerry and Johnny Waller were working at a meat market.

After Jerry and Kathy married, they settled in Fort Worth. They have four adult children, including two from Jerry Waller’s first marriage.

Chumley said she and her brothers were born in Fort Worth. Their father, the Rev. John B. Waller, was a Church of God minister who also served congregations in Jacksboro and White Settlement. Their mother, Juanita, died in 2006 and their father died two years later.

Johnny Waller said his brother had served as an infantry lieutenant in the Oklahoma National Guard. He went on to become a successful businessman who still operated TireTex, a truck tire dealer in Seagoville.

‘It’s been really quiet’

The neighborhood of brick homes and well-kept yards has had problems with burglaries in the past. But during the past year or so, crime has been relatively low. The neighborhood continues to deal with rundown apartment complexes in the area

“We really haven’t had any burglary problems lately — it’s really been quiet,” said Fort Worth City Councilman Danny Scarth, who lives in Woodhaven and represents the area.

Scarth said he was waiting to hear from police before making any judgments.

“I just want to know what the facts are,” he said.

Another resident, Leland Mundy, said the neighborhood had been on the upswing.

“I thought we were through that,” he said. “It’s been pretty serene lately.”

Haskin described the Wallers as a quiet couple who liked to garden in their yard.

They traveled frequently and were members of the neighborhood association, she said.

At the Wallers’ residence, a man who drove into the driveway declined to talk to reporters.

When the alarm went off inside the house across the street from the Wallers, Haskin said, another neighbor was called by a security company because no one answered at the home with the alarm.

That neighbor told the security company to call police because she was concerned about the well-being of the resident, who is in poor health.

A caretaker at the home where the alarm went off told Haskin that police did not come to the door and that no burglary occurred there.

News researcher Cathy Belcher contributed to this report.


Tuesday’s fatal shooting was the fourth this year by Fort Worth police. The others were:

Jan. 29 - Cody Ira Loron, 32, of Fort Worth was fatally wounded during a shootout in Haltom City. Fort Worth police Officer John Bell was shot in the head, hand and hip and underwent multiple surgeries.

Feb. 9 - Sixto Quezada was shot multiple times by Fort Worth police officers as he reportedly tried to run down one officer with an SUV in the Diamond Hill area of north Fort Worth.

April 24 - Robbery suspect Brandon Smith, 29, was killed during an exchange of gunfire with Officer Marty Stone after a robbery at a Whataburger on Brentwood Stair Road. Stone was shot in the leg.

Source: Star-Telegram archives

Bill Hanna, 817-390-7698 Twitter: @fwhanna Bill Miller, 817-390-7684 Twitter: @Bill_MillerST

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