Tarrant DA releases documents in fatal officer-involved shooting

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by TANYA EISERER, JIM DOUGLAS and MARJORIE OWENS

WFAA

Posted on February 5, 2014 at 8:55 AM

Updated Thursday, Feb 6 at 3:47 PM

FORT WORTH — The Tarrant County District Attorney’s Office on Wednesday released hundreds of pages of documents and video and audio recordings related to the fatal shooting of 72-year-old Jerry Waller by a Fort Worth police officer who responded to a burglary call at the wrong home.

According to Kathy Waller,  Waller's wife, she woke up just after midnight on May 28, 2013 to the sound of her dog barking. That wasn't unusual, revealed a transcribed interview between Det. D.L. Baggot and a distraught Mrs. Waller the morning her husband was shot seven times by Officer R.A. Hoeppner.

"I kept telling him to shut up, 'cause he barks over any little thing," she told the detective.

However, Mrs. Waller said she noticed flashing lights outside as she attempted to silence the dog. Mrs. Waller said that was unusual considering the couple's car alarm wasn't making a sound. She woke up her husband to alert him of the lights.

Mrs. Waller said her husband typically stood at the doorway of the patio to turn off the alarm. However, on the morning of May 28, her husband ventured further than the doorway.

"Well, he took longer," she told Baggot. "And suddenly I heard this pounding."

Mrs. Waller said she heard the garage door open and someone yell out to her husband.

"I thought, 'Who in the world is hitting my house like that?'" she said. "But, it was ... it was multiple bangs and that must have been shots."

Mrs. Waller said she went to the garage to find her husband on the ground. A paramedic at the scene informed her that Mr. Waller was dead, she told the detective.

"He's a good man," she told the detective as she described a family cookout that took place the day before. "... We had a very nice meal and then we had a cookout and grandchildren ... In fact, we were saying this is how it's going to be every weekend."

Authorities said Jerry Waller was armed with a gun. According to an autopsy report released last week, Mr. Waller set it down on his vehicle but then attempted to pick it back up and point it at the officer. Hoeppner told investigators that he fired his weapon because he feared for his life. Hoeppner’s partner, B.B. Hanlon, backed up his account.

The officers had gone the wrong address.

Just a few hours after the incident, Officer Hoeppner told investigators he wasn’t sure whether Waller also fired his weapon.

He didn’t.

Hoeppner also said he didn’t recall identifying himself as a police officer as he ordered Waller to drop his revolver, but he said Officer Ben Hanlon definitely did.

That matches Hanlon’s account of what happened.

The interviews are contained in hundreds of pages of documents and many recordings obtained by News 8 Wednesday through an open records request. It's much of the same evidence a Tarrant County grand jury examined before deciding last week not to indict Officer Hoeppner.

Hoeppner and Hanlon went to the wrong house on an alarm call last May. Jerry Waller responded to noise and flashing lights by coming out to his garage with a five-shot, 38-caliber pistol.

According to interviews, Hoeppner took him for an armed burglar and repeatedly told investigators that he thought Waller was going to shoot him. "I gave him a chance, but I mean, I feel that I got rounds off before he could shoot me," Hoeppner was quoted as saying. "I mean, we train, you know? We train at all hours at the [Police] Academy in tactical shooting, and then all that stuff and be able to get there and get out quick."

"I mean... I don’t think he shot. I couldn’t be 100 percent," Hoeppner added.

Police photographs show Waller's revolver inside the garage, where he died from multiple gunshot wounds. According to diagrams, Hoeppner was in an illuminated area at the time of the shooting, which should have made the officer visible to Waller.

From the start, the case has ignited controversy as Waller’s family demanded answers from the city and the police department.

The newly-released documents also show that police staged a video reenactment to show exactly how officers entered the neighborhood the night of the shooting, shut off their lights, and walked into a dark yard.

While the grand jury declined to indict Hoeppner last week, questions still swirl around Jerry Waller’s death.

The Waller family attorney, Art Brender, said he is still waiting to receive the full investigation report. He did say some of the officer interviews raise troubling questions.

News 8’s Jim Douglas and Tanya Eiserer are sifting through documents and will be tweeting new details as they find them. 

Tweets from Jim Douglas and Tanya Eiserer

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