Family Sues Fort Worth, Police Officers Over Fatal Shooting

Jerry Waller was shot by police responding to the wrong house

A Fort Worth family is suing the city of Fort Worth and seven current and former police officers for shooting and killing a man in his own garage two years ago.

Jerry Waller, 72, was shot and killed by a police officer in his own garage in east Fort Worth in May 2013.

Police said Waller at first refused to drop his weapon, then set it down, but picked it back up and pointed it at officers.

But the Waller family attorney said in a press conference Tuesday and in the court filing that story is "impossible."

"It's only been the last few months that I'm beginning to realize that he's really gone," said Kathy Waller, widow of Jerry. "My husband did not deserve this. No one deserves it, and I don't want it to happen to anybody else."

In an effort to prevent it from happening again, Waller's attorney, Art Brender, filed a federal lawsuit in the Dallas District of the North Texas Circuit against the city and seven officers, including then-Police Chief Jeffrey Halstead and Alex Hoeppner, the officer who fired the fatal shots.

Hoeppner told investigators that Waller rushed to pick up the weapon after setting it down on the trunk of the family's car. He said when Waller pointed it at him, he feared for his life and fired.

"I shoot him and then he falls down on top of the gun and then blood started rushing out," Hoeppner told investigators in a recorded interview obtained by NBC 5 in a Freedom of Information request.

But Brender said that story doesn't match the physical evidence. He said that if Waller fell on top of the revolver it would be covered with the blood that pooled around his body and ran down the driveway. A photo of the gun from the crime scene shows no blood on the revolver.

Brender said that Waller could not have been holding the gun as the officers claimed based on a gun shot wound to his left hand.

"He's supposed to be holding a gun that's pointed at these police officers," Brender said. "Didn't happen. Impossible. Their stories are fabrication."

Instead, Brender believes an animation his office had put together shows what happened, that the gun was on the trunk of the car, if in the garage at all, and Waller was likely shielding his eyes from the officer's flash light when he was shot. Brender said that's the only explanation for the wound.

And he suspects the other officer coming around the house may have startled Hoeppner.

"A movement of some sort," Brender said. "He was nervous, poorly trained and started shooting."

Brender said officers illegally moved Waller's body and that it took more than six hours before the medical examiner's office was called to the scene. He also said the officers were poorly trained about how to find the address and questions why the probationary officers were working alone.

The pair was responding to a burglary call, but went to the wrong address.

Kathy Waller said she hopes the lawsuit will force changes in training for the police department.
"It was just, it was just a whole nightmare," she said.

Officer Hoeppner was no-billed by a grand jury in January of last year. The other officer, Ben Hanlon, was fired several months after the shooting for falsifying a police report in an unrelated case.

The Fort Worth Department said it had no comment, as the department does not comment on pending litigation.

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