Video: Cops miss pistol in search, fatally shoot suspect during escape
June 2013 incident is believed to be the first fatal shooting by an on-duty Highland Park police officer in the town's 100-year history
By Melissa Repko
The Dallas Morning News
HIGHLAND PARK, Texas — A Dallas County grand jury declined to indict two Highland Park officers involved in the fatal shooting of a 32-year-old man in June.
David Edwin Hartman of Pottsboro is believed to be the first fatal shooting by an on-duty Highland Park police officer in the town's 100-year history. Hartman was killed after he shot out the rear window of the police SUV with a concealed handgun and escaped.
The grand jury declined to indict the officers after determining the use of force was justified. Highland Park Chief Chris Vinson asked the Dallas County District Attorney's Office to conduct an independent investigation of the shooting and present the case to a grand jury. Highland Park
Department of Public Safety received the outcome Thursday morning.
Vinson said the grand jury's decision was "not a surprise."
"As the grand jury found today, the actions of the officers were justified. The officers were protecting themselves and the citizens that would have had to face an armed, escaped felon," he said at a press conference. "...Mr. Hartman died because he came to our community on a stolen motorcycle, high on drugs, armed with the tools of a criminal's trade."
Vinson said Hartman was carrying a fixed blade knife, a handgun, rag and small can of hairspray. Hartman was convicted of evading arrest and two charges of drug possession in Collin County in 2006, according to public records.
The shooting occurred the evening of June 4 in a shopping center near Mockingbird Lane and Airline Road, after a Highland Park resident called 911 and said his wife was followed home by a bald man on a green motorcycle. Officers found the motorcycle, which they later discovered had been stolen, parked in the shopping center near Southern Methodist University.
Officers say Hartman would not engage with them and tried to ride away on the motorcycle. After a struggle, officers used pepperspray on Hartman, arrested him and patted him down. They found a knife, but did not find a concealed pistol in Hartman's front pocket.
Dash cameras show Hartman stepping over his handcuffs, which were behind his back, in the backseat of the police SUV and reach for his concealed handgun. He shot out the rear window, escaped the SUV and began to flee.
Officers say he pointed his handgun at them. They fired at Hartman several times, then took off his handcuffs and began CPR. Hartman was taken to Parkland Memorial Hospital, where he was pronounced dead.
Vinson said Hartman "deliberately positioned his body to make it difficult for the officers to find the pistol which was hidden deep inside the pocket of his cargo shorts." A pat down was done, Vinson said, but Hartman "was not yet thoroughly searched for transport" and officers had turned their attention to clearing traffic as they waited for an ambulance to arrive for a medical evaluation.
"This is not an excuse as the fact remains that the search was imperfect and a weapon was missed," Vinson said. He said the department has trained officers how to better detect concealed weapons.
"We have all learned something from this lesson and have incorporated this lesson into our training," Vnson said.
Hartman died of gunshot wounds to his back and leg and had abrasions on his head, arms and legs, according to an autopsy report by the Dallas County medical examiner's office. The autopsy report showed Hartman had methamphetamine in his system.
Vinson said the two officers fired at Hartman and the officer coming from the rear of the patrol car struck him in the back.
In August, Hartman's family sued Highland Park in a wrongful-death lawsuit and alleged that at the time he was shot, Hartman "posed no risk to the officers, or any person." They dropped the lawsuit in November.
The two officers were placed on administrative leave immediately following the shooting, but have returned to work.
Copyright 2014 The Dallas Morning News