A fired Dallas police officer accused of shooting a woman 12 times in an attempted traffic stop faced a judge Tuesday in Day 1 of his criminal trial.
Christopher Hess, 42, is charged with aggravated assault by a public servant.
The trial comes a little over three years after 21-year old Genevive Dawes was shot and killed by Hess during a call for a stolen car.
A Dallas County jury will now decide if deadly force was justified in this case.
“We’re all anxious to get it done with and give her the justice that she rightfully deserves,” Mary Dawes, Genevive’s mother, told our partners at The Dallas Morning News. “It’s been three years already. We’re ready to get it done.”
Hess is pleading not guilty. Presiding judge Brandon Birmingham said the trial should last for about a week.
Opening arguments started shortly after 9 a.m. Tuesday, with lead prosecutor George Lewis showing police body camera footage to the jury and calling the incident "unjustified."
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On January 18, 2017, DPD said officers were called to a stolen car complaint around 5 a.m. in Old East Dallas on the 4700 block of Eastside Avenue.
Lewis said a caller had reported the vehicle because it was suspiciously parked inside an apartment complex known for criminal incidents.
A license plate number was provided to police, which showed that it was a stolen vehicle, according to the investigation.
Lewis said a total of six DPD officers responded to the scene. Hess and another officer, Senior Cpl. Jason Kimpel, were the last to arrive. Five of the six officers were wearing body cameras.
Lewis said the body camera footage -- which is being shown in full to the jury -- revealed that one of the officers checked the vehicle and found Dawes and her common law husband, Virgilio Rosales, sleeping inside Dawes was in the driver's seat while Rosales sat in the passenger seat.
DPD said during that encounter, the occupants of the car ignored responding police officers' commands to show their hands.
The body camera footage played out in the courtroom shows Dawes backing into one of the DPD squad cars, then pulling forward and hitting a fence next to the scene. The body camera footage showed the vehicle slowly backing out of the parking spot again and at that moment, the video showed Hess yelling commands at the vehicle before firing his service weapon.
Investigators said 13 rounds total were fired. Of those shots, 12 came from Hess' weapon and one shot -- which struck the vehicle -- came from Kimpel's weapon.
Dawes died from multiple gunshot wounds. Her passenger survived.
"After watching that video, you may be asking yourself, why? Why shoot?" Lewis told the jury.
Hess' defense team painted a different picture during opening statements, one that alleges the officers were protecting themselves against a threat and were "scrambling for cover" when the car started to move.
"Officer Hess will tell you that he made a decision to protect his fellow officers so that they could go home to their families that night," said Hess' lead defense lawyer, Messina Madson. "This was a tragedy that [Dawes] chose to drive into."
The defense team called the parking lot in which the incident occurred a "fatal funnel for officers" and that the officers deployed "tactical moves they use to stay safe."
The defense said the officers did everything they could to get the occupants to comply, including giving multiple verbal commands. The defense said the investigation revealed a loaded, stolen gun was found inside of Dawes' car and that Dawes had made a "drug induced decision." Madson added that the investigation showed drugs were present in Dawes' system at the time of the incident.
Family supporters had said that both of them were asleep in the car at the time and weren't aggressive.
And while police said the car had been reported stolen out of Irving, a federal wrongful death lawsuit against the city by the Dawes family states that Dawes had bought the vehicle a month before the shooting and did not know it had been stolen.
After opening statements, multiple witnesses were called to testify, including Dawes' aunt.
Also called to the witness stand was a senior corporal police officer with DPD, who stated to the jury that she and some of the other officers who responded to the scene that night did not fire their weapons because they did not perceive a threat.
“It caught me off guard because I didn’t see a threat," Senior Corporal Erin Evans said.
A few months after the incident, Hess was indicted in the shooting death and turned himself in at the Dallas County jail. He was released after posting a $250,000 bond.
Hess was eventually terminated from the department months later after the chief said he violated DPD's felony traffic stop and use of deadly force policies.
According to The Dallas Morning News, Kimpel was put on restricted duty at the time but is now an active member of the department. According to police, he is not facing criminal charges for the shooting.
Hess could face up to 99 years or life in prison if convicted.