WJTV News Channel 12 - Walker's family, friends ask Durham police for answers

Walker's family, friends ask Durham police for answers

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A memorial for Derek Walker set up at the Bronze Bull in downtown Durham. (Justin Quesinberry, WNCN) A memorial for Derek Walker set up at the Bronze Bull in downtown Durham. (Justin Quesinberry, WNCN)
A memorial for Derek Walker set up at the Bronze Bull in downtown Durham. (Justin Quesinberry, WNCN) A memorial for Derek Walker set up at the Bronze Bull in downtown Durham. (Justin Quesinberry, WNCN)
DURHAM, N.C. -

Family and friends of a Durham man who was killed in a standoff with police Tuesday say they have concerns with the way officers handled the situation.

During a news conference outside of police headquarters Thursday, family and friends asked why Durham Police did not have a trained certified psychologist or psychiatrist on the scene to help 26-year-old Derek Walker.

Walker died Tuesday after brandishing a gun in downtown Durham at the bull statue. He was shot by police and died at the hospital.

Family members and friends are also questioning why officers took them to the police station instead of allowing them to go downtown where Walker was located so they could help talk him down. 

They are also looking for answers as to why police decided to shoot Walker and why it was a lethal shot. 

"We can do whatever we need to do. If there are changes that need to be made, this is not a time to push things under the rug," said Derek's aunt, Norma Burton. "We need to be open minded, and go in and just try to see what we can do to keep this from occurring again."

Durham Police spokeswoman Kammie Michael said the department does not have a psychologist or psychiatrist on staff, but does have specially trained hostage negotiators.

Michael, asked why the police decided to fire when they did, said, "The situations law enforcement officers deal with are seldom like the ones you see on TV or in the movies. Officers deal with dynamic situations that evolve and change rapidly and involve real-time decision making. The officers spoke with Mr. Walker for approximately an hour before his actions dictated the course of events."

Asked why police could not have used a non-lethal shot, Michael referred to a video that explains some dynamics of police shooting. You can find that video here.

Meanwhile, friends and family members plan a vigil for Walker on Saturday at 4 p.m. at the bull statue downtown.

Durham Police identified the officer who shot Walker as Cpl. R.C. Swartz. He joined the force in 2001 and is assigned to the Special Operations Division. He is now on administrative leave, as is standard procedure.

Sixteen hours before the shooting, Walker posted a status update to his Facebook page saying he'd given up and wanted to die. The post, Walker indicated, came after he lost his son in a long custody dispute. 

"Don't call me and don't talk to me because I'm not responding," Walker wrote. "I hope I die very soon and a fast death because this world I live in is sorry."

In the post, Walker, who was a mortician at Hanes Funeral Home, painted a bleak picture of a man who had lost custody of his son following a bitter custody battle.

"I can't take [what] my son's mother is putting me through," Walker wrote. "She has filled [my son's] head up with so much false stuff. He has told me I'm a bad father, I'm not a good dad."

He continued, "I'm ready to die because I have no reason to live right now." 

Many friends and family members tried to reach out to Walker after the post.

"Unfortunately when you're dealing with mental health issues, we never know what a person's breaking point is," family friend Jackie Wagstaff said. "Whatever was going on with Derek, I guess he had reached his breaking point.But it does not negate and take away from all that Derek represented in Durham.

Durham Police have a Crisis Intervention Team. According to the department website, the team includes officers who have had 40 hours of specialized training in mental illness and crisis intervention.

Officers who graduate from the program have training in specialized areas, including suicide risk assessment. Part of the program's goal is to reduce use-of-force occurrences.

The county has more than 275 certified officers in five law enforcement agencies.

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