Rookie Officer in Fatal Shooting of Homeowner Rejected by FWPD Twice

NBC 5 obtains documents that shed light on backgrounds of two officers who shot man while responding to burglary call

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    NEWSLETTERS

    NBC 5 requested the personnel records of the two officers involved and received more than 500 pages in documents from the Fort Worth Police Department. (Published Wednesday, Aug 7, 2013)

    One of the two officers involved in the fatal shooting of an armed homeowner while at the wrong house during a burglary call had been rejected by the Fort Worth Police Department twice, according to documents obtained by NBC 5.

    Jerry Waller, 73, was killed at his home on Havenwood Lane in east Fort Worth on May 28. The officers said Waller wouldn't lower his handgun. The burglary call was at a home across the street, but the officers inadvertently began searching Waller's property.

    NBC 5 requested the personnel records of the two officers involved and received more than 500 pages in documents from the Fort Worth Police Department.

    The officers are Ben Hanlon and Alex Hoeppner, records show. Both went through the department's academy just last year, officially becoming officers in October.

    Both officers had a single commendation for their work on calls from before the shooting death in May.

    Details of the shooting have not been fully released. However, a radio call obtained by NBC 5 indicates that Hoeppner fired on Waller after the homeowner pointed his gun at the officers. The coroner said Waller died inside his garage.

    Hoeppner was with Fort Worth police since before he became a commissioned law enforcement officer.

    He worked as a police cadet beginning in January 2009 and was unemployed for five months after that program was dissolved. The documents reveal that he was hired as a traffic control technician in November 2010 before he was admitted into the police academy on March 29, 2013.

    Hanlon's background is far more extensively detailed in his personnel records. Fort Worth police rejected him twice before he was accepted in 2012.

    Hanlon wrote on an application form in 2011 that in August 2007:

    "I was applying to Fort Worth PD and (section redacted) because I lied about marihuana usage. I stated that I had only tried marihuana 1 time when the real answer was that I have tried it 5 times, first time being 06/2002 and last time being 04/2007."

    [Eds. Note: The spelling of marihuana was in the original document.]

    Hanlon also confessed to stealing items while he worked at Best Buy and at Six Flags as a teenager.

    On a list assembled by Fort Worth police, a document states that Hanlon applied to FWPD in August 2007 and July 2010 and lists the status as "failed poly," referring to a required polygraph test.

    That list also says Hanlon "failed oral board" with Bedford police in April 2011, but the documents also indicate Bedford hired someone from within and never processed Hanlon's file much farther.

    Hanlon also applied to the Dallas Police Department. The status of his applications on August 2009 and June 2010 show "DQ," meaning he was disqualified.

    In his application to join the Fort Worth Police Department, Hanlon said he never found out why he was rejected by DPD. One of his references is a Dallas police officer who is a family friend.

    In section listed for comments, the Fort Worth police document says:

    "Dallas PD stated he failed the background process 12/20/11 due to hazardous traffic convictions and undesirable conduct."

    Hanlon has five speeding tickets listed in his application file. A comment by his investigator says that "if he receives one more citation while in the process, he will be written out."

    In a January 26, 2012, oral review board conducted by two Fort Worth police sergeants and a lieutenant, Hanlon was unanimously rejected by all three to proceed further along in the process.

    The document reads, "The Oral Review Board voted unanimously in favor of suspending this applicant from the hiring process. Dissenting votes were in reference to the below characteristic as it relates to essential job functions."

    The characteristics marked were "responsible," "maturity" and "ethical."

    In the comment sections by the review board members, each highlighted concerns with Hanlon's application.

    "He still fails to demonstrate the maturity or ethical integrity to avoid problem situations," Lt. Michael Shedd wrote.

    "The applicant continues to associate himself with those smoking marijuana. His discrepancies show a lack of ethical values," Sgt. S.E. Castillo wrote.

    "Applicant says he has matured, however, he is still associating with persons that smoke drugs," Sgt. L.E. Elgin wrote. "Applicant seems divided about how to deal with persons of 'ill repute.' Applicant appears to not be at a maturity level to definitely avoid placing himself into situations that can place him in possible danger of being around a criminal element."

    Despite such criticism, Hanlon joined the academy on March 19, 2012.

    On a review sheet preceding the oral review board's comments, no designation is selected -- "suitable", "unsuitable" and "withdrew" are not checked.

    A sergeant signed the document but does not give an indication. Capt. M. Baldwin handwrote "unsuitable" and "concur w/board." But Lt. V. Keyes handwrote, "I disagree with the board's decision" and something else that is not legible.

    NBC 5 asked Fort Worth police specifically about this particular discrepancy in Hanlon's file.

    Sgt. Kelly Peel responded with the same statement the department provided last month when asked about a police affidavit on the shooting:

    "Please keep in mind that the Havenwood Lane North shooting is a Critical Police Incident that takes several weeks to complete by the Fort Worth Police Major Case Unit. It will be reviewed through the chain of command and ultimately by the Chief of Police.

    In respect to the Waller Family and to maintain the integrity of this process, it would be inappropriate to comment at this time.

    Thank you again for your patience and understanding."

    The Tarrant County District Attorney's office confirms that it received a Fort Worth police investigation report last week and is now investigating and reviewing. The case will be presented to a grand jury for consideration.

    The DA's office would not comment on any facts of the investigation.