Family wants answers after PD shooting

July 13, 2009 3:38:06 PM PDT
The family of an army veteran from Brooklyn is demanding answers after 49-year-old Shem Walker was shot dead after the NYPD claims he grabbed the gun of an undercover officer. Walker's family claims the officers never identified themselves.

The incident happened Saturday night on Lafayette Avenue in the Clinton Hill section.

Just 30 seconds, that's all it took for a mix-up between Walker and two undercover police officers to turn deadly.

It started when Walker unknowingly walked into the middle of an undercover sting operation, his family stoop being used as a lookout post. He thought he was clearing thugs from the front of his mother's home. Police say Walker hit one of the officers on the head, knocking him to the ground and then punched him.

That's when, according to police, the undercover officer drew his gun and said, "Police, don't move." Police say Walker then grabbed the gun. Two shots were fired and Walker was dead.

"This is as extreme as it gets for police work," police policy expert Maki Haberfeld said.

Haberfeld, a John Jay college professor, used to work for the Drug Enforcement Agency. She says undercover drug stings are intensely dangerous. That's the context, she says, in which the officer drew his gun.

"You know your life is in danger," she said. "You know it, and somebody might kill you. And I don't know if they had a chance to think was Walker one of the bad guys or an innocent bystander."

But where one sees self-defense, the family sees over-reaction by an officer too quick to reach for a weapon.

"He was killed, he didn't die of natural causes," Walker's daughter said. "They killed him. Now I don't have a daddy anymore."

"He don't be involved in no violence," the victim's mother said. "He always try to make peace."

It's a no-win situation in which the lines between undercover and criminals are blurred, causing confusion and sometimes deadly confrontation.

"If someone decides to use physical violence, they will have to accept the final outcome," Haberfeld said. "And the final outcome might be deadly."

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WEB PRODUCED BY: Bill King


NEW YORK AND TRI-STATE AREA NEWS

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