Family accuses Fort Worth police of misrepresenting fatal shooting

Posted Friday, May. 31, 2013  comments  Print Reprints
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Two children of Jerry Waller, the 72-year-old Woodhaven resident fatally shot early Tuesday by Fort Worth police officers, accused police on Wednesday of “misrepresenting details of the incident.”

“My father never stepped outside of his garage,” son Chris Waller said in an email to the Star-Telegram.

“He was shot multiple times in the chest only a few steps away from the doorway to his kitchen.”

Fort Worth police officials said Tuesday that two patrol officers encountered Waller, carrying a handgun, at the back of his house “near the garage-driveway area” and that at least one of the officers fired after the officers “felt threatened.”

They were not specific about where Waller was when he was shot.

At an afternoon news conference Wednesday outside her parents’ home, daughter Angie Waller read a statement.

“We were deeply troubled by the police department misrepresenting details of the incident in their interviews with the media,” she said. “We would ask that the police refrain from providing details to the media until a thorough investigation has been completed, preferably by an independent body.

“We were disturbed by suggestions that police may have felt threatened by a man in his own garage faced with unknown trespassers wielding flashlights.”

Angie Waller declined to answer questions.

Police declined to respond to the family’s statements.

“It would be inappropriate to comment any further until the investigation is complete,” said Sgt. Kelly Peel, a police spokesman.

Waller was pronounced dead at 1:26 a.m. Tuesday inside the attached garage of his residence at 404 Havenwood Lane North, the Tarrant County medical examiner’s office reported.

The medical examiner said the cause of death was “multiple gunshot wounds” and ruled the death a homicide. That means another person caused the death but does not imply that a crime occurred.

On Wednesday, the two officers were identified as R.A. Hoeppner and B.B. Hanlon. Both were commissioned in October, Peel said.

The officers will be represented by Vincent Wisely, staff attorney for the Combined Law Enforcement Associations of Texas.

Wisely said he would not comment on details of the case.

“However, I will say that the officers involved did everything they were trained to do in responding to a very clear and direct threat upon their lives,” Wisely said in an email.

“Any time a police officer is forced to take a human life, it is painful not only for the family and friends of the precious life lost, but also for the police officer who has been placed in the unenviable position of having to defend his own life by the use of deadly force.”

Peel declined to answer whether one or both officers fired their weapons or whether Waller fired or threatened to fire his, stating “that’s part of the investigation.”

The investigation, conducted by the Major Case unit into the “critical police incident,” could take several weeks, Peel said, and then it will be forwarded through the chain of command before being reviewed by Police Chief Jeff Halstead.

Police have said the patrol officers were in uniform and driving marked cars when they responded to a report of a burglar alarm at 409 Havenwood Lane North, a house across the street from Waller’s, which is 404 Havenwood Lane North. Police have said they do not know why the officers ended up at Waller’s house, saying that was part of the investigation.

NBC 5 and CBS 11 obtained recordings of radio communications between one officer and dispatchers. In it, the officer reported “shots fired” and requested an ambulance.

A dispatcher asked the officer his location, and he responded, “409 Havenwood.”

The officer described what happened. “I don’t know who the guy is,” he said. “The guy came out with a gun. He wouldn’t put the gun down. He pointed it at Hoeppner. Hoeppner fired.”

Becky Haskin, a former Fort Worth City Council member who lives two doors from the Wallers, said when the alarm went off inside the house at 409 Havenwood, the security company called another neighbor when no one answered at the house 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.

Bill Miller, 817-390-7684

Twitter: @Bill_MillerST

Deanna Boyd, 817-390-7655

Twitter: @deannaboyd

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