Officer arrived at wrong address and shot homeowner seven times because he “felt threatened”
January 30, 2014
Yesterday a grand jury declined to charge a Ft. Worth, Texas police officer who killed a 72-year-old man on his own driveway after arriving at the wrong address to investigate a burglary alarm.
The jury’s decision not to indict R.A. “Alex” Hoepper for the May 28 shooting death of Jerry Waller came after prosecutors presented 25 hours of testimony over four days, according to the Ft. Worth Star-Telegram.
Waller died after Hoepper shot him seven times as the officer and his partner arrived at Waller’s house, mistakenly thinking that the burglary alarm going off across the street came from his residence.
Waller had been walking down his driveway with his gun to investigate the alarm he heard from his neighbor’s house.
“The 72-year-old man didn’t even make it to the house across the street before he was shot,” CBS Fort Worth reported. “He died on his own property.”
Hoepper later said that he shot Waller because he “felt threatened.”
Ft. Worth police chief Jeff Halstead believed the jury made the “right decision” not to indict Hoepper, even though the officers did not realize they were at the wrong address until a detective showed up later at the scene.
“I think it was proven through the autopsy and evidence that a gun was pointed directly at Officer Hoeppner and he was forced to make his decision,” he said.
But Waller’s family pointed out that since the shooting, the department had been “feeding misinformation” to the local news and to the public.
“We were disturbed by suggestions that police may have felt threatened by a man in his own garage faced with unknown trespassers wielding flashlights,” the family said in a released statement.
One of Waller’s neighbors, former Ft. Worth council member Becky Haskin, also added that Hoeppner, a rookie, is a “victim of his own inexperience.”
“I think he panicked,” Haskin said. “He just unloaded his gun in rapid fire. That’s what I heard; it woke me up. I thought it was in my back yard – just rapid fire, one right after the other, in succession.”
“There wasn’t any hesitation.”
She added that although nothing is going to bring Waller back, someone from the police department should apologize to the family.
“It’s an accidental death at the hands of an untrained police officer.”