Vigil will remember homeowner killed by Fort Worth police

05/26/2014 2:15 PM

05/26/2014 3:26 PM

Jerry Waller has not been forgotten.

A candlelight vigil will be held at his family’s Woodhaven home Wednesday night as friends remember Waller, 72, who died last year after being shot several times by a Fort Worth policeman who had responded to a burglary call at the wrong house.

“This is just a few minutes at dusk to remember,” said Becky Haskin, a neighbor and former Fort Worth councilwoman. “He was a friend and neighbor to all of us. We miss him very much. It has been a year, but there has been no resolution. We still ask the question: How could this happen?”

The candlelight vigil will begin at 8:30 p.m. Wednesday at the Waller family home, 404 Havenwood Lane N. in the Woodhaven neighbohood.

After the candles are lit, family members will read a statement and there will be a closing prayer, according to a statement at jerrywallerjustice.com.

“All are welcome to come and show support for his family as we all struggle to understand why he was shot and seek closure,” a message on the website says.

Waller went outside early May 28, 2013, after his wife, Kathleen Waller, woke to the family dog’s barking and lights in the driveway, according to a police report. Figuring the car alarm had gone off again, she woke her husband, asking him to check on the commotion.

Outside the home, officers Ben Hanlon and Alex Hoeppner were searching for a possible prowler, unaware that they were at the wrong house.

When Waller entered his garage and encountered Hoeppner, the officer yelled at Waller, ordering him to “Drop the gun! Drop the gun!” according to a police report.

Hoeppner said that at one point Waller asked “Why?” and told the officers to “get that light out of my eyes,” according to a police report.

Waller did put his gun on top of a car but “scrambled” to pick it back up and “swung the handgun in the direction of Officer Hoeppner,” which prompted the officer to fire his weapon, the report says.

Waller was pronounced dead at the scene, inside his garage. An autopsy revealed that he’d been shot multiple times.

When interviewed after the shooting, Hoeppner said that Waller had a “very standoffish attitude with us” and that “in my mind was going to shoot and kill me.”

A Tarrant County grand jury declined to indict Hoeppner this year.

Police Chief Jeff Halstead has said the grand jury made the right decision, saying evidence was clear that Waller pointed his gun at Hoeppner.

Hoeppner remains on the police force. Halon was fired for an unrelated matter.

Members of the Waller family have accused police of misrepresenting the facts of the shooting.

“Jerry Waller was a veteran. He had the highest regard for the men and women who serve our country and community,” says a statement on the Justice for Jerry Waller website. “He would not want the tragic decisions of the police involved in his death to cast a shadow on the honest and hardworking officers who serve our city. We need everyone’s support to get to the truth.”

This article includes material from the Star-Telegram archives.

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