Grand Jury Declines to Indict Fort Worth Cop Who Killed 72-Year-Old Grandfather

JerryWaller.jpg
Jerry Waller
There's no doubt that rookie Fort Worth cop Alex Hoeppner screwed up spectacularly on the morning of May 28. He and his partner, also a rookie, responded to the wrong house for a burglary call. When he encountered a man with a gun near the garage he opened fire, discovering only afterward the person he'd shot seven times was the homeowner, 72-year-old Jerry Waller.

But was Hoeppner's screw-up criminal? A grand jury thinks not. On Wednesday afternoon, the Tarrant County District Attorney's Office announced that, after hearing 25 hours of testimony over four days, the panel declined to indict Hoeppner on criminal charges.

See also: Jerry Waller, a 72-Year-Old Grandfather, Was Shot in His Driveway by Fort Worth Police

Police Chief Jeffrey Halstead released a statement and spoke with media about the shooting, saying it has "bothered me literally every day that I work."

Hoeppner and his partner, Benjamin Hanlon (who was fired for filing a false statement in an unrelated report) encountered what they perceived to be a threat and reacted.

"They had milliseconds to make a decision, and they will endure that second guessing of themselves for the rest of their career," he told Fox 4.

In a statement, the Waller family said they are undertaking an investigation of their own and declined further comment.

Send your story tips to the author, Eric Nicholson.


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39 comments
katgal1232
katgal1232

Another stupid cop killing an innocent person.  We just keep letting them get away with it.

paulpsycho78
paulpsycho78

Unless your Josh Brent, Affluenza Couch, or a cop...you should be wary..but if your one of the aforementioned three YOLO

roo_ster
roo_ster

Why do we hold LEOs to lower standards than regular folk?  I find it hard to believe that the attorney for the people pressed this case as hard as he would have against a regular solid citizen.

lebowski300
lebowski300

Sure a cop can accidentally shoot you anytime, but that risk goes up dramatically when you visibly present a firearm. This is a very legitimate reason not to own a gun. You have to decide if the risk reward is worth it to arm yourself and patrol. For Jerry on that day, the risk was fully realized unfortunately.

zerromi
zerromi

Of course not. Pigs actually receiving punishment for their brutality? Hah.

Myrna.Minkoff-Katz
Myrna.Minkoff-Katz topcommenter

Personally, I think the cop should not be charged, but neither should he remain in a position in the department that may lead to a repeat of this horrible tragedy.  It was a terrible mistake, not intentional.  Civil suit, yes, because it's a case of poor judgment.  And I hope the family gets plenty. 

tdkisok
tdkisok

This is sad all around. Maybe the it was the right decision by the grand jury but I hope this family brings a civil suit to the city of Fort Worth and gets a shit load of money.  

holmantx
holmantx topcommenter

This was the right decision from the grand jury.

Hanlon’s voice is heard on an audio recording taken moments after shots fired to report the shooting, “I don’t know who the guy is. The guy came out with a gun. He wouldn't put the gun down. He pointed it at Hoeppner. Hoeppner fired.”

Waller, 72, was shot seven times in the chest after he went outside to investigate bright lights outside of the bedroom on Havenwood Lane.

The rookie broke down when he realized he shot a homeowner across the street.  They were at the wrong address.  And it was a false alarm across the street.

RTGolden1
RTGolden1 topcommenter

@roo_sterWould the attorney for the family be present at a Grand Jury?  I was under the impression that a normally empaneled Grand Jury is presented cases by the State's Attorney or the DA and either returns indictments or doesn't.

Clearly, I'm not a lawyer.  Anyone who can clear this up, please do so.

Joshstruckoutagain
Joshstruckoutagain

@lebowski300 I know Jerry's neighborhood, used to play golf right near there..a gun is not a bad thing to have for a homeowner over there, the criminals dang sure have em.

James_the_P3
James_the_P3

@lebowski300 

Wow.  So the people should voluntarily surrender their freedoms and liberties enshrined in the constitution because the police are incompetent, if not criminal?  By that theory, the people should have voluntarily surrendered their freedoms to assemble and to speech after the Democratic National Convention in 1968, because of the risk of a police riot caused by peaceable assembly.

everlastingphelps
everlastingphelps topcommenter

@Myrna.Minkoff-Katz  I actually agree with Myrna on this.  The chief said, 


"They had milliseconds to make a decision, and they will endure that second guessing of themselves for the rest of their career."


That's absolutely true.  But that career should not be in law enforcement.  Sorry, but you don't make a mistake like this and keep the badge.

casiepierce
casiepierce

@Myrna.Minkoff-KatzWhere was the poor judgement? They responded to a burglary call and found- SURPRISE!- a man with a gun, which presumably a burglar would also have. Maybe, just maybe, Jerry shouldn't have been running around brandishing a firearm outside like a fucking moron.

paulpsycho78
paulpsycho78

@tdkisok exactly the guilty go unpunished and the middle class soak up the expense...Amerikkka's SOP

hotdogthatshit
hotdogthatshit

@holmantxI'm sure it went down exactly how Hanlon radioed it in, you know he is a trustworthy guy cause he is still employed... oh wait he was fired for lying on an official report so his version of how this incident happened isnt worth the paper it was printed on.  We'll never know if Mr. Waller ever pointed his weapon at anyone because the two morons who murdered him are not trustworthy enough to believe.

Whoever was running that shift is an idiot, who the hell puts two rookies together in any job much less one that has stakes as high as a Police job?  Two new guys who have their head up their asses investigate the wrong house and shoot an innocent man.  I don't give a shit if the rookie broke down and started crying, good to know he at least has a heart, but he should be out of a job and unemployable as peace officer anywhere after this.

paulpsycho78
paulpsycho78

@James080 @lebowski300 with 5% of the world's population and 23.4% of the world's prison system population, every one in the US is a target of the prison industrial complex..be careful of your interactions with rich or influential people.  Keep 20 thousand dollars in the bank at all times for a decent legal defense 5-10 k will get you only a little more than a public defender.

lebowski300
lebowski300

@James080 You are a target whether you choose to be or not. The arrogant ignorance of this fact contributes to the outcomes like Jerry's.

casiepierce
casiepierce

@hotdogthatshit@holmantxSorry but who the hell runs outside of their house with a gun when they see bright lights? Was there something wrong with Jerry's windows? We live in a big world, bright lights exist.

RTGolden1
RTGolden1 topcommenter

@whocareswhatithink@lebowski300@roo_sterPart of having a Right is taking responsibility for the exercise of that Right.  The Right to keep and bear arms is not without consequences and does not contain a waiver of liability clause.

The police have not only a right, but a duty, to carry a firearm in the discharge of their duties.  Let's shine a light of reason on the situation and see what we come up with:  1) It's nighttime and the police are dispatched on a burglary call   2) arriving on-scene, at some point, they notice a man, in the shadows of the garage/driveway, holding a firearm.  3) upon identification of themselves as law enforcement, the subject, who is still unknown, does not put down his firearm.

We know how it ends, and now, months later, it is easy for us to point fingers.  How would you have reacted in the cop's shoes?  YOU don't know who this person is.  YOU think (from your dispatch) you are arriving at the scene of a burglary.  YOU see someone, where someone is not expected to be, carrying a gun.  YOU identify yourself as law enforcement and the person does not discard or safe his weapon.  Do YOU wait until you get shot, or do you shoot first?  Hindsight is a great boon to the armchair quarterback, it doesn't do much good in the actual moment.   I think the Grand Jury has it right, this is a civil matter, not a criminal matter.

lebowski300
lebowski300

@whocareswhatithink "It was about 1 a.m. when the 72-year-old stepped outside to investigate." Also buried in the title of the story of the shooting is that mysterious word "driveway". You sir, are illiterate.

lebowski300
lebowski300


@RTGolden1 I hear what you are saying, but gun rights, freedoms and controls have little-to-nothing whatsoever to do with this story. This story is more about choices and competencies of a cop with a firearm and choices and competencies of a citizen with a firearm. Although the cop choices were ALL wrong (debatably criminal or not) the citizen made choices too that had consequences. 

My original comment was that this exact circumstance and outcome is a real reason why I (and I suspect others) don't want to patrol our property with a firearm when we hear a bump in the night.

RTGolden1
RTGolden1 topcommenter

@lebowski300@roo_sterThe responses to your comment here, from the first hyperbolic shrilling to this last arrogant dismissal are the reasons for the positions I gave to you the other day.  You presented a very considered and rational decision each individual must make for themselves (the very definition of an Individual Right) and you are suddenly calling for the abandonment of the Constitution.  Apparently unless you support the government forcing everyone to purchase and carry a firearm, you are advocating the dismantling of a Constitutional Right.

This is why I support well-thought out, sensible gun control measures (like the ones we have in place already, if we'd only enforce them), that create a sensible balance of Constitutional freedom and Public Safety.  (I do tend to lean more in the direction of the Constitutional freedom however)

James080
James080

@bvckvs @James080@lebowski300 

You don't know if the gun made any difference. Make that argument to all of the unarmed people the police have shot in the last few years. Mr. Waller should not have left his garage door open at night, and should not have exposed himself to the police if he thought they were burglars. But the police are 100% to blame, they were trespassing and failed to control the situation. So much for training.

But you and lebowski300 are the cowards. You're likely just afraid of guns, or just too lazy to train with a weapon. Or you're democrats, you know, people who don't understand the 2nd amendment. Mass shootings usually occur at places where guns are prohibited. Are you too ignorant to understand why? Criminals look for easy targets, people like you, with your head down, clearly inept, unarmed, an easy mark. People in the country use legally possessed firearms to protect themselves and their families every day. The lion doesn't attack a tiger, he looks for sheep. Like you.

lebowski300
lebowski300

@James_the_P3 You keep saying I say things that I don't. I am not saying anyone should surrender any constitutional right. Let me dumb it down for you with an example:

First Amendment rights give me freedom of speech. Still I decide not to say stupid shit that has consequences I don't like. This is not me surrendering my right. It is, as I said originally, something I "have to decide". 

Every decision by someone else that isn't one you'd make the same is not that someone else "surrendering" their rights.

James_the_P3
James_the_P3

@lebowski300@James_the_P3 

You call the possibility of police misconduct "a very legitimate reason" voluntarily to surrender a constitutional right.  That's the exact opposite of a "very legitimate reason."  That's a wholly illegitimate reason.

If we want to pursue illegitimate lines of reason, your paragraph could be re-written as follows:  "Sure, a cop can accidentally shoot you anytime, but that risk drops dramatically when you shoot him first.  This is a very legitimate reason to own a gun.  You have to decide if the risk/reward is worth it to yourself to arm and patrol.  For Jerry that day, the risk of not shooting the cop first was realized, unfortunately."


I would disagree with that paragraph, too.  So perhaps the answer is that cops shouldn't go around shooting citizens who are exercising their constitutional right to keep and bear arms on their own private property.  Is that really too much to ask?

everlastingphelps
everlastingphelps topcommenter

@casiepierce @hotdogthatshit @holmantx Who said he ran outside?  He was shot in his own garage.  How do we know how long he had been standing there?


If he hears an alarm, it's perfectly fine to stand in your own garage with your shotgun with the door open.  He could have been there the whole time when the cops showed up.  Add in that as old as he was, he probably had night blindness and couldn't see once they started shining bright lights at him.


The cops don't have the right to shoot you on your own property when there is no reason to be there.  I can't imagine what it is like in your head where they do.

ozonelarryb
ozonelarryb

So he was crying. Josh Brent is remorseful too. But we prosecuted him. Every cop shop has some BS oath and motto about high standards and honor etc. But it's crap if they get to skate.

Never shirk your jury duty. Just leaves it to the other fools who turned in this decision.

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