The story out of Fort Worth doesn’t demand much by way of commentary, but needs to be known nonetheless. From the Star-Telegram:
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.
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.
What happened? Two things are clear, that the officers made a mistake and went to the wrong house and that Jerry Waller is dead. It isn’t hard to picture how a mistake resulted in the two cops being startled by a guy with a
shotgun handgun. It isn’t hard to picture how a guy in his garage with a shotgun handgun to defend his home was startled by two cops. And yet Jerry Waller is still dead.
To the extent that there is anything to add to this very unfortunate situation, it’s that police are human and make the same dumb mistakes that anyone else can make. Should they be more careful, make sure they have the right house number before walking about with guns drawn. You bet.
Yet, to assume perfection in the performance of their duties is to end up like Jerry Waller. Despite all best human efforts of care, mistakes will happen. We can be angry about them and demand better, but no one has figured out yet how to make people foolproof.
On the other side, the question has to be asked why Jerry Waller found it necessary to grab his
shotgun handgun and play Texas Ranger. Yes, it was his right to have a shotgun handgun, be in his garage and defend his family. That’s not the question, and it’s unfortunate that bullets don’t respect people’s rights nearly as much as we might prefer.
Having the right to do something doesn’t make doing it a smart move. One reason for this is that people, cops for example, sometimes make mistakes, creating an unintended situation that turns out to be deadly for someone.
Wouldn’t it have been a whole lot better if the cops shot no one and Jerry Waller was alive today?