An Upshur County grand jury cleared two officers involved in the January shooting death of Dale Hightower Jr.
The grand jury met Thursday and found the officers’ actions were justified in using deadly force, according to a news release from the Upshur County District Attorney’s Office.
A call for service was received by Upshur County Dispatch on Jan. 3. The caller said Hightower had assaulted a woman and was holding her against her will at an address southwest of Gilmer, according to the news release. The caller also stated that he believed Hightower to be intoxicated.
Trooper John Smith III and Upshur County Sheriff’s Deputy Alex Ortiz responded to the address on Cottonwood Road in Upshur County.
When Smith arrived at the location and exited his marked patrol car, he said he could hear a woman’s voice screaming from inside the residence. The gate to the property was locked so he waited for backup to arrive. Both he and Ortiz walked to the gate and while they were still in the yard, they said they saw Hightower walking off his porch.
Officials said video and audio evidence showed that both officers yelled and identified themselves as a trooper and deputy. Officials said officers are heard screaming for Hightower to put his gun down and not to shoot. Instead, officials said Hightower took a defensive position, raised his loaded rifle at the officers and was shot five times by the officers and fell to the ground.
The woman in the residence was then called out of the residence. Law enforcement officials said she displayed injuries consistent with being assaulted. Officials also said Smith and other officers administered CPR to try to save Hightower. Officers said they found an additional loaded clip in his pocket along with the woman’s cellphone.
The woman stated during an interview that Hightower said he would shoot anyone who came to the property, according to the news release. The Texas Rangers were called and took the lead in the investigation.
- Staff Reports