DALLAS – Former Dallas police officer Christopher Hess, 42, was acquitted in the shooting death of 21-year-old Genevive Dawes.
Prosecutors charged Hess with aggravated assault by a public servant in the shooting death of Dawes on January 18, 2017.
Officers responded to a call regarding a vehicle believed to be stolen, which was confirmed. Dawes and her boyfriend Virgilio Rosales were inside at a parking lot when police confronted them. Dawes, the driver, put the vehicle in reverse, running into a patrol unit. Next, she went forward into a fence, then finally went in reverse one more time. It was then that Hess opened fire 12 times, prosecutors said in opening statements. Another officer, who was not charged, fired once, Law & Crime reported.
As a result of the shooting, Dawes died. Prosecutors claimed that Hess went over the line using deadly force. They said his actions were unreasonable under the law and emphasized the standard was what an ordinary, prudent person would do, not a police officer.
There was a gun found in the vehicle, but the state said in closing arguments that this was beside the point, and had no bearing on anything. It only served as an attempt to make it okay to justify killing Dawes, the prosecution asserted.
Jurors were allowed to consider self-defense in their deliberations. The defense maintained that it was Dawes’s choice to drive like that, and Hess made the hard decision to open fire for the safety of others at the scene.
— Law & Crime Network (@LawCrimeNetwork) February 11, 2020
#ChristopherHess – With the jury gone the defense questions Officer Hopkins about meeting with the D.A. 's office in March 2019. He told the prosecutors then that he felt this was a "righteous" shooting and that Officer Hess acted reasonably. pic.twitter.com/cRYOJnRMGu
— Law & Crime Network (@LawCrimeNetwork) February 4, 2020
The defense wanted Rosales to testify, arguing that he lied to the grand jury, but he invoked the Fifth Amendment.
In court, Hess closed his eyes in apparent relief, after the verdict was read by Judge Birmingham, NBCDFW reported. His attorney Messina Madson telling reporters outside of court that “(Hess) made a hard decision but he made the right decision.”
Prosecutors declined to answer questions from reporters but said briefly they “respected the jury’s decision.” Their case encountered numerous obstacles, including witnesses that were at times combative and police officers at the scene who testified they believed Hess’ made the right decision to fire.
“Every other officer said they felt (Hess) made the right decision, so at that point he doesn’t need to testify, so at that point it’s their burden and they didn’t meet it,” Madson said.
Madson said she doesn’t expect Hess to try to get his job back or become a police officer anywhere else.
Hess was fired in July 2017 after an internal investigation found he violated the department’s felony traffic stop policy, use of force policy and placed a person in greater danger than necessary.