DALLAS - The trial began Tuesday for the former Dallas police officer accused of aggravated assault in a fatal shooting.
Christopher Hess is charged in the shooting death of 21-year-old Genevive Dawes.
During opening statements, prosecutors said Hess’ decision to use deadly force was unjustified. However, defense attorneys argued he made a reasonable decision so that he and his partner could go home to their families that night.
“You had six total officers on scene, only two fired. One of them only fired once, but the defendant shot 12 times,” said prosecutor George Lewis.
“Genevive Dawes was armed, aggressive,” said defense attorney Messina Madson. “She made a drug induced decision that night to avoid arrest... you’ll learn that she had both meth and heroin in her system.”
Jurors saw body camera video from 2017 that shows Hess and his partner, Officer Jason Kimpel, firing 13 shots into a car that slowly backed into their police cruiser.
They were responding to a call about a suspicious person in the parking lot of an apartment complex in Old East Dallas. Records showed the vehicle was reported stolen out of Irving and the officers initially claimed the driver of the vehicle ignored commands and then backed up in their direction.
Sr. Cpl. Erin Evans, another officer who responded to the call, testified that she did have some concern because the driver of the vehicle appeared to be trying to get away but she said she did not fear for her safety. She told jurors she never saw a weapon and was trained to move out of the way of the vehicle.
Evans told prosecutors the gunshots caught her off guard because she wasn’t seeing a threat. During cross-examination, she admitted that while she didn’t feel the fleeing vehicle was a threat, the situation was becoming more threatening.
Dawes, a mother of two who was expecting a third child, had reportedly purchased the vehicle without knowing it was stolen. Her common law husband, Virgilio Rosales, claims they were asleep when the officers approached.
Rosales told FOX 4 during a previous interview that Dawes nudged him awake. He said he could not see who was outside because they were shining flashlights into the van.
"She got scared,” he said. “They got guns in her face. At first, she don’t know they are cops.”
A barrage of bullets tore through the vehicle when Dawes put it in reverse. Rosales was not hurt but later arrested for the unlawful possession of a firearm by a felon.
An attorney for the Dawes family said the body camera and dash camera video of the incident show she was not trying to hit the officers.
Grand jurors who saw the video indicted Hess on a charge of aggravated assault by a public servant. He was then fired by the Dallas Police Department. Kimpel was not indicted, cleared of any wrongdoing and returned to work.
Dawes’ family is also suing both officers and the city of Dallas, alleging excessive force. The lawsuit argues poor training, a lack of supervision and a lack of discipline were at the root of the shooting.
The city filed a motion asking that it be dismissed from the lawsuit. Officer Kimpel’s attorneys did the same but a judge rejected their requests.