A former Dallas Police Department officer was found not guilty Thursday of charges related to a 2017 shooting in which he killed a woman at an Old East Dallas apartment complex.
After deliberating for two days, a Dallas County jury acquitted Christopher Hess, 42, of a single count of aggravated assault by a public servant.
Hess was one of six police officers who responded to a suspicious vehicle call at the complex on Jan. 18, 2017. When officers arrived, they found Dawes and her boyfriend, Virgilio Rosales, sleeping inside an SUV. Officers ordered Dawes and Rosales out of the SUV. Instead, Dawes tried to flee, backing the SUV toward the police cruisers that were blocking her escape path.
Hess' partner, Jason Kimpel, fired a single round into the SUV but missed. Hess fired 12 times, striking Dawes five times and killing her.
Much of the trial dealt with the central question of whether Hess reasonably feared for his or his fellow officers' safety. Another DPD officer on the scene, Erin Evans, testified that she didn't think the situation called for the use of deadly force.
But Jerry Staton, a retired Austin police officer called as an expert by the defense, said Hess' decision to fire his gun a dozen times was reasonable.
“You don't just shoot and hope one shot will work, or two or three,” Staton said. "You start putting rounds towards the target and when the car stopped, the officer stopped shooting. That's what he's trained to do."
Keep the Dallas Observer Free... Since we started the Dallas Observer, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Dallas, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Dallas with no paywalls.