A twist in the Woodhaven police shooting

Posted Saturday, Oct. 12, 2013  comments  Print Reprints

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Fort Worth Police Chief Jeff Halstead fired officer Benjamin B. Hanlon on Tuesday. That’s a problem.

The firing — and even more, the reason for it — complicates the case involving another officer who shot and killed 72-year-old Jerry Waller on May 28 at Waller’s home in the Woodhaven neighborhood east of downtown.

Hanlon was the only eyewitness when officer R.P. Hoeppner shot Waller as the two rookie policemen responded to a 1 a.m. burglary alarm coming from a home near Waller’s.

He alone can corroborate Hoeppner’s claim that Waller was armed and made a threatening gesture toward the officers.

Some members of Waller’s family have said police misrepresented the details of the shooting, insisting that Waller was inside his own garage when he was shot.

Now Hanlon has been fired for misrepresenting details of a traffic stop. The incidents are unrelated, but now Halstead and his department have labeled Hanlon a liar.

If what the chief says is true, even in an isolated, unrelated incident, is his credibility damaged in the Waller shooting case?

Halstead says Hanlon is guilty of “[i]ntentionally placing false information on an arrest warrant” from an Aug. 9 traffic stop.

The affidavit indicated that drugs were found on a suspect during the stop, police said, but they actually weren’t discovered until the suspect was booked into jail.

Now what happens? Police say they took the Waller shooting case to the Tarrant County district attorney’s office Aug. 1, more than two months ago. A spokeswoman there says the case will be presented to a grand jury at a future date.

Sooner would be better than later. This case should be resolved.

It’s made more difficult by Hanlon’s firing. A police officer would get the benefit of any doubt in a similar case with no witnesses. But a witness whose truthfulness can be questioned makes things worse.

Hoeppner remains on active duty. As much as anyone else, he deserves to see the Waller shooting case resolved.

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