Affidavit: Poor lighting caused officers to shoot in wrong home
72-year-old Jerry Waller was shot and killed when 2 rookie officers approached the wrong home and saw him, also armed
By Lee Williams
Fort Worth Star-Telegram
FORT WORTH — Police officers responding to a burglary alarm call went to the wrong house because of poor lighting and fatally shot an armed homeowner, according to a search warrant affidavit released Wednesday.
Officers B.B. Hanlon and R.P. Hoeppner were dispatched to 409 Havenwood Lane at 12:51 a.m. May 28. But after arriving at 12:58 a.m., they "inadvertently began searching" across the street at 404 Havenwood, where 72-year-old Jerry Waller lived.
Officers "approached the west side of the house near the garage that is located on the southwest corner of the home with the knowledge that there was a possible burglary in progress. There is no lighting around the home and the officers had only the use of their flashlights," according to the affidavit.
As the officers approached, they encountered Waller, who "was armed with a handgun standing near the corner of the home," according to the affidavit.
The officers identified themselves and ordered Waller to drop the gun, but he pointed it at the officers, prompting Hoeppner to shoot Waller, according to the affidavit.
Waller was pronounced dead at 1:26 a.m. inside the garage.
Waller's relatives have previously disputed the officers' account, accusing police of "misrepresenting details of the incident."
"My father never stepped outside of his garage," son Chris Waller told the Star-Telegram the day after the shooting. "He was shot multiple times in the chest only a few steps away from the doorway to his kitchen."
Chris Waller declined to comment Wednesday, saying he had not seen the affidavit.
Former Councilwoman Becky Haskin, who lives two doors down, said the entire neighborhood has been waiting for an answer from the city about what happened that night.
She said the question of why officers fired six times on a homeowner in his own garage remains unanswered.
"His wife said she heard yelling and then gunshots immediately following," Haskin said. "I think they [the officers] got startled."
Haskin said the Police Department's silence likely involves fear of a lawsuit.
"I think the Police Department is just waiting to see how much they're going to get hit by the Wallers' attorneys," Haskin said.
Police are investigating the shooting.
Police Chief Jeff Halstead said Wednesday that the two officers have returned to full-time duty, but he declined to comment further.
An autopsy on Waller has also been completed.
On Wednesday, however, the Tarrant County district attorney's office sent a letter to the attorney general's office, contending that the autopsy report should not be released to the Star-Telegram because of the pending investigation.
Staff writers Bill Hanna and Deanna Boyd contributed to this report, which includes material from the Star-Telegram archives.
Copyright 2013 the Fort Worth Star-Telegram