A year later, widow recalls nightmare of mistaken shooting

Posted Wednesday, May. 28, 2014  comments  Print Reprints

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It was calm and balmy in Woodhaven on Wednesday evening as Kathleen Waller welcomed people to the front lawn of her home at 404 Havenwood Lane to remember a chaotic night one year ago.

“I’ve been in shock for a year, waiting for my husband to come home,” she said. “It was a nightmare, a total nightmare hearing those shots.”

Kathleen Waller said she thought the noise was someone banging on the garage door, “but it was bullets flying into my husband.

“That sound will be with me the rest of my life, and I just want some closure.”

On May 28, 2013, her husband, Jerry Waller, 72, was shot to death by a police officer looking for a prowler.

Officer R.A. “Alex” Hoeppner, accompanied by officer Ben Hanlon, came to the Waller’s house after being dispatched to a burglary alarm call across the street.

In January, a Tarrant County grand jury declined to indict Hoeppner for the shooting. He has returned to duty. Hanlon, who did not fire his gun, was fired in October in an unrelated matter.

Wednesday, after a prayer and Amazing Grace, Kathleen Waller thanked everyone for coming to the vigil. She thanked her neighbors for how they’ve reached out to her for the past year. Her grief, she said, continues as she and the rest of the family demand more answers about the shooting.

Police Chief Jeff Halstead declined to comment Wednesday on statements made during the vigil, and he instructed police officials to do the same.

In January, Halstead said the grand jury made the right decision to not indict Hoeppner. The autopsy showed, he said, that the trajectories of Waller’s wounds showed that the homeowner had his arm outstretched, as if pointing a gun. A revolver belonging to him was recovered from the garage.

Daughter Angie Waller said during the vigil that her father was the “bedrock” of the family and very active.

“For everyone who knew him, he seemed to be growing younger,” she said, reading from a prepared statement.

Her father went to bed the night before the shooting, having enjoyed a Memorial Day cookout with family, and he looked forward to making improvements to the home that summer, she said.

“Before he fell asleep that night, he told my mom what a good day it had been,” she said.

Angie Waller said the family was angry about the police department’s explanation. They believe Waller was trying to defend his family.

“A rookie officer, while blinding my father with flashlights, jumped to many prejudiced conclusions before shooting him,” she said. “We were deeply offended when we read the young officer’s report.

“As we remember Jerry Waller, we know his character shone through in his final moments serving and protecting his family.”

Angie Waller said the family’s “resolve to get justice for my father has only grown.”

“Our blood has boiled as we listened to false statements fed to the media that aimed to make this case sound tidy and closed,” she said. “Jerry Waller was protecting his family in the early hours of May 28th. This case is not closed for our family or this community.”

Former Fort Worth City Councilwoman Becky Haskin, a neighbor of the Wallers, prayed prayer at the end of the vigil. She gave thanks for Jerry Waller and prayed that strength would be given to his family.

But Haskins also prayed for Hoeppner and Hanlon. Later, she explained, the shooting “is something they’ll have to live with the rest of their lives.”

“I’m sure a day doesn’t go by that they don’t think about it,” Haskin said.

This report includes information from the Star-Telegram archives.

Bill Miller, 817-390-7684 Twitter: @Bill_MillerST

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