It Was Dark and They Had the Wrong House -- Fort Worth Police Explain Why They Shot a 72-Year-Old at His Own Home

Categories: News

JerryWaller.jpg
When Jerry Waller stepped out of his garage at 1 a.m. on May 28, he had no idea he'd encounter a couple of Fort Worth police officers. The 72-year-old grandfather had heard a noise and suspected burglars, so he roused himself, grabbed his gun, and went to check it out.

Officers B.B. Hanlon and R.P. Hoeppner weren't expecting to see Waller, either. They were investigating a burglary call and decided the armed man lurking in the dark beside 404 Havenwood Lane must be the culprit. According to the department's version of events, they ordered the gunman to drop his weapons. When he didn't immediately comply, Hoeppnner opened fire.

Hoeppner never set out to kill an innocent septuagenarian doing nothing more than trying to protect his home and family. Rather, the shooting was the result of a lightning-fast cascade of mistakes and misjudgments by police that was set off by a single, easily avoidable misstep: They were at the wrong house.

See also

-Jerry Waller, a 72-Year-Old Grandfather, Was Shot in His Driveway by Fort Worth Police
-Fort Worth Mistakenly Demolished David Underwood's Home, So How Is He This Upbeat?

The Fort Worth Star-Telegram obtained an affidavit on Wednesday revealing that the burglary call had come from across the street at 409 Havenwood Lane. But because it was dark and because they were trying to be stealthy they "inadvertently began searching" Waller's property instead.

The darkness also meant they couldn't really make out the gunman. "There is no lighting around the home and the officers had only the use of their flashlights," the affidavit says.

Tarrant County is refusing to release Waller's autopsy report to the Star-Telegram, citing an ongoing investigation. Both Hanlon and Hoeppner have returned to full duty after a stint on administrative leave.


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33 comments
roo_ster
roo_ster

Dumb ass cops who can't find an address and kill taxpaying citizens.  Were they 5th century barbarians, they would have ate the women and raped the cattle.

I am disgusted by the disparate treatment of LEOs vs non-LEOs in these sorts of shootings. 

FTR, regular armed citizens who shoot and kill to defend themselves are less likely to kill an innocent person.

Cowtown
Cowtown

Two rookie cops on a burglary call. Real smart call by their superior.

ruddski
ruddski

Shit happens. Damn NRA.

lewbowski300
lewbowski300

It gets dark at night. Please stop murdering people. Okthnkx

James080
James080

Officers R.P. Hoeppneris back out on the streets? Really?

Blake Wilson
Blake Wilson

Why does the government allow people to be outside of their home at night? Perhaps we should all be required to call 911 to get an escort outside of the home when its past curfew? (sarcasm alert, directed towards those who blame Mr. Waller for daring to exercise his free will).

Shane Owens
Shane Owens

It's DO, they will try to find a way...give them time.

MushMouth1
MushMouth1

Here's a tip that every person who delivers anything knows - one side of a street has odd numbers the other has even numbers. Furthermore in most cities each house goes by 4s : 3301,3305, 3309...

d-may
d-may

This is why civilian gun ownership is dangerous. "...the shooting was the result of a lightning-fast cascade of mistakes and misjudgments by police". A small mistake,searching the wrong home, escalates to an innocent person's death. 

More people die from accidental gun shots than from violent attackers. 

wcvemail
wcvemail

@bvckvs But this wasn't a vigilante, the victim was the homeowner. You probably meant to comment on another story in another blog, and got confused where you were typing. Drive safely, ok?

The_triplefake_Brandon_Eley
The_triplefake_Brandon_Eley

@MushMouth1 Along those same lines, is it asking too much of first responders to know which side of the street is even and odd?  These guys were not only at the wrong house, but they were on the wrong side of the street.      

everlastingphelps
everlastingphelps topcommenter

@d-may More private citizens are shot by cops than cops are shot by criminals.

Disarm the police.

Myrna.Minkoff-Katz
Myrna.Minkoff-Katz topcommenter

@d-may Night time.  Occupant of house hears noises.  Occupant picks up rifle and goes out into the dark to investigate.  Meanwhile, neighbor had called 911.  Cops arrive, assume lurking man with rifle is a burglar.  One of the cops is trigger-happy and lets go a shot, killing homeowner.

Lesson:  If you suspect prowlers are trying to break in to your home, call 911 and stay put.  Do not go out roaming the property, lest you be killed by the cops or the prowler.

oakclifftownie
oakclifftownie

@wcvemail @bvckvs   I think He has a point .

While We will never know the Laundry List of Charges the DA would have brought against the homeowner had he gotten the drop on them and  killed those two Policeman  I have a feeling that the using the  word "Vigilante" as part of his actions  and a neighbor favorite around these parts  "Deadly Conduct" would have been in  heavy rotation. In the Press conferences .

MushMouth1
MushMouth1

@James080 Yes but this kind of knowledge is basic, which side is even and which is odd.

MushMouth1
MushMouth1

@still_todd Yep. Pretty elementary. Take the center of the city and the north and south will be opposite of each other eg. on north side odd to west even to the east on south odd to the east and even to the west and same on east side vs west side with even to north odd to the south etc.

d-may
d-may

The British and many other people around the world would agree with you, and have. 

And America has about 50x more annual gun related fatalities per 100,000 citizens than the UK, so you may be onto something.

everlastingphelps
everlastingphelps topcommenter

@Myrna.Minkoff-Katz @d-may News flash: Burglars do not go out with rifles.  Rifles draw attention.

If you see a guy with a rifle, he may or may not be up to no good, but he's certainly NOT a burglar.

Oxtail
Oxtail

@Myrna.Minkoff-Katz wow. just wow. 

Just curious, at what point do you feel its an appropriate time to grab a gun? When they do actually break in? When they are stealing you property? Before or after rape? Or just after your murdered?

mcdallas
mcdallas

@still_todd @oakclifftownie "vig·i·lan·te (v j -l n t ). n. 1. One who takes or advocates the taking of law enforcement into one's own hands. 2. A member of a vigilance committee."

I don't know if we have enough information to really know if he was "vigilante".  I guess there's a fine line between self defense (and defense of homestead) and vigilantism.

d-may
d-may

@everlastingphelps @d-may Who said anything about murder? I said gun related fatalities. That includes ALL deaths involving a gun. 

This one would count, as well as accidental wounds. 

Americans have 50x more of those than the British. 

everlastingphelps
everlastingphelps topcommenter

@d-may And once you are comparing apples to apples (the UK, for example, doesn't count something as a murder until someone is CONVICTED in court) then the US murder rate and the UK rate are about the same.  In the US we do it with guns, and in the UK they do it with knives.

But it's all the same to the victims.

everlastingphelps
everlastingphelps topcommenter

@Oxtail @Myrna.Minkoff-Katz Myrna believes you shouldn't pick up the gun until just after The Government taps you on the shoulder and says, "I hereby knight you a Government Agent", bestowing up you the magical power of Never Being Wrong.

The_triplefake_Brandon_Eley
The_triplefake_Brandon_Eley

@d-may @Oxtail @Myrna.Minkoff-Katz 

Good point.  It would have been helpful if the cop, AKA the shooter, had asked "are we on the correct side of the street?" prior to shooting.   

d-may
d-may

@Oxtail @Myrna.Minkoff-Katz 
Well, this guy picked up his gun first. And look at how well it turned out for him. 

So, probably in this situation, it would have been better to have asked questions first prior to shooting. 

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