In Fort Worth, the family of a 72-year-old man killed by police who responded to the wrong address after a burglary call has filed a wrongful death suit.

The suit, filed Tuesday, alleges that an officer admitted that he never identified himself as an officer before shooting Jerry Waller, that police moved Waller’s body after the shooting, and that investigators questioned the officers involved in a way to “provide a defense to the police shooting of an unarmed innocent man.”

The lawsuit alleges that officer Richard Hoeppner trespassed on the Wallers’ property, used excessive force against Waller, and destroyed or altered evidence to make it appear as if Waller was armed and posed a threat.

Brender alleges that Waller, a father and grandfather, had been standing in his own garage, unarmed and with both hands in the air, when he was shot and killed by Hoeppner.

In addition to Hoeppner, the suit also names as defendants Hoeppner’s then-partner on the call, Benjamin Hanlon, former Police Chief Jeff Halstead, investigators Dana Baggott and Merle Davon Green, and officers B.S. Hardin and A. Chambers.

Hanlon was later fired from the department for falsifying a report on an unrelated case.

City officials did not immediately return a message seeking comment on the lawsuit. A police spokesman said the department would not be commenting. Halstead also declined to comment.

Police officials have previously said Hoeppner shot Waller after the man pointed a gun at the officer.

A Tarrant County grand jury declined to indict Hoeppner in January 2014.

Halstead, who has since retired, told the Star-Telegram at that time that the grand jury made the right decision.

“I think it was proven through the autopsy and evidence that a gun was pointed directly at officer Hoeppner and he was forced to make his decision ” Halstead said.

But Brender said Tuesday that police relied largely on “junk science” and that the autopsy and crime scene photographs indicate that Waller was unarmed and would have had his hands up at the time he was shot. He released a video Tuesday of a forensic reenactment of the shooting that he said is supported by evidence in the case.

I’m not sure an autopsy can really prove that the decedent was pointing a gun when he was shot. In any case, even assuming what the police say is true, Waller was only defending his home. There’s zero reason to think that a 72-year-old man with no criminal record would knowingly point his gun at police officers who had mistakenly entered the wrong home. Incidentally, a year after Hoeppner shot Waller, he was nominated for an award for exemplary service.

Our next story is also about a lawsuit, also in Texas, also involving an elderly man.

A lawsuit filed against the Georgetown police department alleges unnecessary force against an 81-year-old man.

The suit comes after 81-year-old Herman Crisp says he was the target of unnecessary police force and that officers left him with a broken hip. Then, the lawsuit states, police got no care for him and family members discovered him the next day.

The police were looking for Crisp’s nephew. I suspect that if Crisp had a gun, or was holding something that resembled one, he’d have met the same fate as Waller.

The final story comes from Florida.

On May 11, Justin Way was drinking and threatening to kill himself. His father, George Way, said his son was a recovering alcoholic and had been alcohol-free for five weeks.

“He just lost his job, and he had a setback,” he said.

Way’s live-in girlfriend, Kaitlyn Christine Lyons, said she’d caught Justin drinking a bottle of vodka, which she took away from him to pour out. She said he was drunk, lying in their bed with a large knife, saying he would hurt himself with it. She called a non-emergency number in an attempt to get her boyfriend to a local St. Augustine, Florida, hospital for help—and told them she did not feel threatened.

“My brother has been Baker Acted three times because he was threatening to hurt himself so I figured that would happen with Justin,” said Lyons. Florida’s Baker Act allows the involuntary institutionalization of an individual, and it can be initiated by law-enforcement officials.

“The only person Justin threatened was himself and I honestly don’t think he wanted to die.”

Minutes later, two St. Johns County Sheriff’s deputies, 26-year-old Jonas Carballosa and 32-year-old Kyle Braig, arrived at the home, armed with assault rifles, and told Kaitlyn to wait outside.

“I thought they were going into war,” she remembered thinking when she first saw the large guns. Within moments, Justin was shot dead.

This is normally where’d I’d strongly caution against ever calling the police if you believe a loved one is unstable or a threat to himself. Too many police departments get too little training in how to resolve these situations peacefully. But that isn’t even what happened here. His girlfriend called a help line. I can’t think of a more inappropriate first response to someone in the midst of a breakdown than to send the SWAT team. But it’s not uncommon. Nor is the result that we saw here.

Source http://www.washingtonpost.com/news/the-watch/wp/2015/05/28/this-week-in-excessive-force/

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s