The only thing known for sure is this: A man was on the stoop of 370 Lafayette Avenue Saturday evening where the Walker family lived. Because the Walker home is a few doors from a suspected drug house, Mr. Shem Walker was accustomed to shooing away loiterers from his property. The drug-involved, or street people simply left. But this time the man Mr. Walker confronted to leave the property was an undercover police officer, and this time Mr. Walker was shot dead. The family is in shock and the community is once again, aghast.
Councilwoman Letitia James said she had walked the street on Sunday, speaking to the residents. “They all described Mr. Walker as a non-violent man.” And in questioning the residents, she said, “Of everyone who was seated by their window that day, no one, not one, heard the police officer identify himself as a police officer.”
“I’m calling on the District Attorney and/or the New York State Attorney General to conduct an independent investigation.”
The Councilwoman urged all witnesses to come forward. Lawyer for the family Sandford Rubenstein said that witness could go directly to the District Attorney’s office if they were uncomfortable with dealing with the police.
James also called for the Mayor and Police Commissioner to issue clear policies in the use of deadly force. “The officer’s gun must be used as a last resort and not as the first option when faced by a minimal threat.”
One of the Councilwoman’s demands is that the city reform the Citizen’s Complaint Review Board, “Which has proven to be ineffective in addressing police misconduct. The public must have confidence in the police department’s ability to police themselves.”
“Mr. Walker has served his country. His daughter is about to leave on her second deployment to Iraq. His life was a story about second chances and learning from mistakes. Mr. Walker had a zero tolerance for loitering or drug dealing on his property. This was not the first time he had asked individuals not to loiter on his property. And why this officer did not excuse himself from the property is major question.”
Assemblyman Hakeem Jeffries had one question for Mayor Bloomberg and Police Commissioner Kelly, “When will the NYPD stop killing innocent Black men?”
“Sean Bell did not have to die. Omar Edwards did not have to die. Shem Edwards did not have to die.” And then the assemblyman spoke of the elephant in the room. “There is clearly an institutional problem with respect to the police and their engagement with the African-American community.”
The Assemblyman said that no other family should not have to experience the pain that the Walker family has right now. “To almost witness the death of a beloved father and son, right on the footsteps of their very home.”
Speaking of the police comments on the shooting, which may have caused the Daily News to refer to Mr. Walker as an “ex-con,” the Assemblyman said, “We don’t believe the NYPD has the ability to conduct a fair or impartial investigation. That is why all you’ve seen from their spokesperson is spin and half-truths and misrepresentation.”
And then the Assemblyman said what should be looked at is the obvious. “If the NYPD does not have the ability to talk to the shooter, until the D.A. has completed his investigation, how in the world do we have all of the so-called “facts” that have been put out for public consumption?”
“That is why we need an independent, impartial, comprehensive, investigation conducted by the District Attorney and we will not rest until justice is brought about in this case.”
City Councilman Bill Deblasio spoke about standing in solidarity with the Walker family and said that “another innocent New Yorker has died for no reason whatsoever.”
As with Jeffries, Councilman Deblasio spoke to the need for honesty in this case. “We have to look this squarely in the face,” he said. An innocent man defending his own property.”
“This is not the first time it’s happened. In all these incidents, in every case, someone who is not breaking the law, ended up dead. In the case of Mr. Walker defending his property, in the case of Officer Edwards, trying to stop someone from breaking into his vehicle and then chasing them. In the case of Sean Bell, celebrating before his wedding.”
Deblasio said that ten years have passed since Patrick Dorismond was confronted by undercover officers who he thought were criminals trying to assault him. “The officers tragically never made clear their identity,” and Mr. Dorismond was killed. “That was a decade ago. And we haven’t fundamentally changed our policies because in each of these cases the problem stems from undercover officers, sometimes not trained properly, sometimes not following procedures, but consistently not identifying themselves resulting in innocent people in each case losing their lives.”
The Walker family and advisors are meeting with District Attorney Charles Hynes on Thursday 16th to state their case and hear how he will be conducting the investigation.
District Attorney Hynes first came to prominence in 1987 when he was appointed special prosecutor in the death of Michael Griffith, an African-American teenager who was attacked by a mob of white teens in Howard Beach, Queens. Hynes won three convictions in that case. The special investigator status came after intense negotiations between Governor Mario Cuomo, Mayor David Dinkens, Congressman Charles Rangle and others necessitated by the insistent demands of attorneys for the families, C. Vernon Mason and Alton H. Maddox Jr.