Not even the sound of African drums could drown out the screams that Shem Walker’s daughter Shemika let out as she walked down the aisle of the church alongside her family. “Daddy! Daddy!” she tearfully shrieked during the procession even louder than she did last week when she identified her father’s dead body.
Walker was memorialized at Full Gospel Assembly Church in Brooklyn on Monday night. The church was filled to capacity with family, friends and supporters who came to pay respects to the 49-year-old Army veteran who was unarmed and shot by an undercover police officer on July 11. But while sorrow and celebration for Walker were in order, a new movement was born as the community and a family gets past the tears looking at the road ahead for justice that has been paved.
The Rev. Al Sharpton delivered the eulogy for Walker, vowing that the fight has begun to hold the NYPD accountable for their actions. Sharpton said Walker was simply protecting his wheelchair-bound mother, who he was visiting from Pennsylvania. “Shem Walker was the pride of his family,” Sharpton said. “But this service is the shame of this city. This is not about Black or white. This is a Black cop. This is about right and wrong and this Black cop is as wrong as if he was white or anything else. And we are going to fight him.”
Last Saturday night, Walker was caring for his mother at her house on Lafayette Avenue in Fort Greene when he saw a man on her stoop that he thought was trespassing. The man turned out to be a plain-clothed undercover NYPD officer who was working on a drug investigation at a nearby deli. Walker allegedly told the man to get off of the stoop and hit the man, not knowing he was a police officer. The cop refused and the two began to scuffle, tumbling down the steps. The officer then pulled out his gun, which Walker tried to grab. The weapon went off twice, hitting
Walker fatally in the chest. Sharpton blasted the city for not even calling the family with an apology or an explanation, using the word “shameful.” He also challenged those at the service to carry out Walker’s legacy by taking action against crime and drugs in their neighborhoods. The NYPD has withheld the name of the 36-year-old Black male officer who allegedly shot Walker because he is an undercover officer. Witnesses said that the officer did not identify himself and the NYPD did not specify whether or not the officer
told Walker who he was. “It’s not time for Shem to be gone,” said Valory Walker, Shem’s widow. “I’m very angry. He was murdered. He was taken away.”
Walker’s family and friends gave brief reflections of the man who migrated from Guyana at the age of 16 to New York. The statements painted a more personal picture of Walker as a father, dedicated son and a man who cared deeply about getting drugs and crime out of his neighborhood.
Elected officials, including Councilwoman Letitia James and Assemblyman Hakim Jeffries, gave words during the service, vowing to use their positions to get justice. Jeffries said Walker would be alive if the NYPD had never trespassed on his mother’s property.
“We’ve met with the district attorney’s office, which has indicated that [the DA is] going to move forward in an expeditious fashion,” said Jeffries. “We expect him to conduct a full, impartial investigation which I hope will result in a grand jury inquiry.”
This past Sunday, Jeffries led a prayer vigil outside of the Walker home on Lafayette Avenue. Kirsten John Foy of the National
Action Network and several Central Brooklyn ministers joined him.
James said based on the 20 people on Lafayette Avenue she spoke to who were near the incident, the police officer did not identify who he was.
“Mr. Walker was defending the property of his mother. The reality is that a number of residents on Lafayette Avenue indicated to me that he did not want anyone drug dealing on his mother’s property,” she said.
Walker was buried at the Evergreen Cemetery in Brooklyn on Tuesday. He leaves behind his wife, two daughters, Shavone and Shemika, and two stepsons, Robert and Richard. Shemika is reportedly scheduled to be redeployed Iraq for a second tour.