A Dallas County jury is deliberating whether to make former Dallas Police Department officer Christopher Hess the third DFW police officer sent to prison for an on-duty police shooting in as many years. Hess shot 12 times at Genevive Dawes, hitting her five times and killing her on Jan. 18, 2017. He is charged with aggravated assault by a public servant, a first-degree felony.
Hess was one of a half-dozen DPD officers who showed up at an Old East Dallas apartment complex after a 911 call about a suspicious vehicle. When the officers approached the car, they found Dawes and her boyfriend, Virgilio Rosales, sleeping inside.
The cops yelled at Dawes and Rosales to show their hands and get out of the car. They didn't. Instead, Dawes tried to get away, backing up, then pulling forward and then backing up again toward the police cruisers that were blocking her path out of the parking lot.
Jason Kimpel, Hess' partner, fired one shot at the car, missing both Dawes and Rosales.
Testimony over the last week has focused on whether Hess reasonably feared for the safety of either himself or his fellow officers. One of Hess' fellow officers on the scene, Erin Evans, said last week that she did not feel a threat worthy of using deadly force.
Jerry Staton, a retired Austin cop called as an expert by the defense, said Hess' decision to shoot — and the number of shots he took — was reasonable.
“You don't just shoot and hope one shot will work, or two or three. You start putting rounds towards the target and when the car stopped, the officer stopped shooting. That's what he's trained to do,” Staton said.
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During their closing argument, Hess' defense team said their client, rather than being convicted of a crime, should be commended for his actions the night of the shooting.
"Officer Hess was exemplary that night," defense attorney Messina Madson said. "He remembered what was important. He valued human life and he made the only choice that was available to him."
Prosecutors said nothing Dawes did — the defense argued throughout the trial that she was desperate to escape because she was on drugs and there was a stolen gun in the car — made it necessary for Hess to kill her.
"You can't use deadly force because someone's ended up in a stolen vehicle," lead prosecutor George Lewis said. "You can't use deadly force and shoot to kill somebody because they have a gun in the car, even if it is stolen, especially when that information comes to light after the fact. ... Each and every officer who testified on the stand under oath this week told you that gun did not play any factor whatsoever" in the use of deadly force in this case.