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Man killed in Durham police standoff 'snapped,' friend says

Posted September 18, 2013
Updated September 19, 2013

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— A 26-year-old man who was shot to death by police in downtown Durham Tuesday afternoon posted on his Facebook page before the fatal standoff that he was upset about a custody dispute over his son and that he hoped to die soon.

Investigators say Derek Deandre Walker walked into downtown Durham's CCB Plaza on Corcoran Street shortly after 4 p.m., distraught, waving a gun and shouting.

WRAL News video from the scene showed what appeared to be Walker repeatedly saying "shoot me" while pointing his gun at officers.

Negotiations failed, and the standoff ended about an hour later with police Cpl. R. C. Swartz firing at Walker.

He died at a local hospital.

Walker was training to be a mortician at Hanes Funeral Service in Durham, the funeral home's director, Bishop Franklin Hanes, said Wednesday.

"We were very close. He was like a son," Hanes said.

Hanes said he wasn't sure why Walker was involved in the police confrontation but said he was upset about some papers he received in the mail this week.

"I don't know what it was about, but it shook him, and he said the justice system did him wrong."

Latasha Alston, the boy's mother, also isn't sure what led Walker to Tuesday's events, saying she was shocked at the Facebook message because she had no plans to file for full custody.

"I don't know what drove him to this point," Alston said. "There was never a custody battle over my son. I told Derek I wanted joint custody, so why he would say that, I don't know."

Court records, however, show that Alston filed for primary or full custody on Sept. 9.  

Alston said she and Walker did go to court to talk about how to handle custody as their son entered school but that there was no dispute or drama involved.

"I am very family-oriented," she said. "I wanted my son to know his dad." Derek Walker vigil Mourners at site of Durham standoff: 'Our hearts are empty'

In Tuesday's Facebook post, Walker wrote that he had no reason to live after learning that his 5-year-old child's mother wanted full custody.

"I hope if there is a god that he allow the devil to kill me right now bc there is no reason for me to live right now!" he wrote in the post. "Im ready to die."

Hanes said he tried calling Walker after finding out about the message but couldn't get in touch with him until Walker called him after 4 p.m., crying and giving him instructions on how to bury him.

"He cried and said, 'I love you, but I'm going to do it,'" Hanes said. "I said, 'Listen, don't do anything crazy,' and he hung up."

Hanes said the man he knew wasn't the man on TV Tuesday evening and that he doesn't want people to get the wrong idea about who Walker was.

"Derek was a trusted person, a person with integrity," he said. "You saw somebody out there who just snapped. That's what I want people to know. It wasn't just anybody who ran up town with a gun. That was somebody who just snapped."

Hanes said funeral arrangements are pending.

Meanwhile, the State Bureau of Investigation is investigating Tuesday's shooting, which is a standard procedure whenever a police officer is involved.

Swartz, who joined the Durham Police Department in 2001 and is assigned to the Special Operations Division, is on administrative leave with pay, which is also routine in such cases.

At a vigil Wednesday evening for Walker, his uncle Ricky Hart questioned the use of deadly force.

"We are just trying to come to grips with understanding why (police) went from verbal negotiations for 59 minutes to next minute taking deadly force action against this young man," Hart said.  

Police spokeswoman Kammie Michael said Wednesday that officers are trained as negotiators and many also undergo crisis intervention training for such situations.

"Officers deal with dynamic situations that are rapidly evolving and require real-time decision-making," she said. "The officers spoke with Mr. Walker for approximately an hour before his actions dictated the course of events."

166 Comments

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  • mgallen2 Sep 20, 12:34 p.m.

    @jwjsdj

    ...huh?

  • jwjsdj Sep 19, 7:16 p.m.

    N-O-W, The Wife or Ex, Says there was No Custody Issue. "S-U-R-E", She's Innocent. Yes it take 2 Sides, 2 S-I-D-E-S to think of a Child/Children's Welfare, First. But Most Statistics Shows, That the Woman Most Like Will Give the Children. And They Will Use that as A Weapon to Greedily get what they want. In This Case the Child Loses, every Time!!! Prayers, R-I-P...

  • hemerocallis Sep 19, 5:07 p.m.

    "We are just trying to come to grips with understanding why (police) went from verbal negotiations for 59 minutes to next minute taking deadly force action against this young man," Hart said.

    ...he pointed a gun at a police officer. If a person with a gun appears they are going to shoot someone the police are supposed to take that person out. I honestly don't think this young man was going to shoot an officer (and was just looking to get shot) but that is unfortunately police protocol. An officer can't shoot to just try and hurt (as opposed to using deadly force) because if a gunman is still alive there is a chance they could still start shooting.

    My heart goes out to the family. This is a sad situation all around.

  • bombayrunner Sep 19, 3:22 p.m.

    These cases aren't worth anything unless he was using an AR15 and whacked a few innocent people. Maybe if he had an ar15 handgun ... like the news at one point said the guy in DC was using an AR15 Shotgun.

  • LamWal Sep 19, 3:10 p.m.

    Let's see. His facebook page said he was ready to die and had given up on God. He is telling the cops to shoot him and another news station had video of him lowering his gun aiming at something right before they shot. WHAT IS THE ISSUE? He clearly wanted to die but did not want to kill himself bc he believed it would keep him from heaven. At least he did not take someone else with him. It is sad really sad what happened but the cops did what they had to do. You can not have a guy lowering his gun in public in an unstable mindset and do nothing about it. So the family members need to take a step back no matter how hard it is and look at the sitaution.

  • icdumbpeople Sep 19, 2:54 p.m.

    "We shoot animals with tranquilizer darts but we shoot people with 9mm's center mass."

    But animals are sooooo much better than people are. I completely understand that.
    That is a good thing.

  • icdumbpeople Sep 19, 2:46 p.m.

    “Stop allowing women to use the children to hurt the Fathers,”

    It happens every day and very sad.. the one that suffers is the child. They should allow any man that wants to be a father (few of them these days) to move to the same school district and split time with children half and half. (or be allowed to bring them and pick them up from school) No child support - Half and Half. My daughter’s (she is 28 now) didn’t have a father growing up and I would have paid any amount of money for him to have been a decent human being and been there for her.

  • beachbum1 Sep 19, 2:21 p.m.

    Very sad, I hope the family courts will take a better look at FATHERS in custody cases. You can't just take a child away from their Father because the Mother wants to! Stop allowing women to use the children to hurt the Fathers,

  • richanderson Sep 19, 2:17 p.m.

    This is tragic.. next time please call me and I'll be happy to take the pistol out of his hand with one shot from a block away - that's not even a difficult shot as long as they've cleared the area behind him. We shoot animals with tranquilizer darts but we shoot people with 9mm's center mass.

  • Obamacare for everyone Sep 19, 12:36 p.m.

    maxwellc, are you serious? The cops in Durham are not killing black men for sport, so don't even attempt to claim that nonsense. Good grief.

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