Last week, an undercover New York City police officer participating in a drug buy shot and killed 49-year-old Shem Walker during an altercation at Walker's home in Brooklyn. Police say Walker, described by family and neighbors as an ex-con who had reformed, apparently thought the officer was a drug dealer or a vagrant. When the officer didn't respond to Walker's verbal demand to leave his property, apparently because he was wearing earphones to monitor the drug buy, Walker tried to forcibly remove him from Walker's front stoop. The two got into an altercation. A second undercover officer then joined the fight, at which point the first officer shot and killed Walker.
The tension escalated Thursday when Walker's family held a vigil on the same porch several days later. The family says that as they gathered, an NYPD officer pulled up and demanded identification. When several members refused, the officer called for backup. More officers arrived, and the vigil eventually erupted into shouting and shoving between the family and police. Police and family accounts obviously differ on who or what instigated the shoving. But it seems like a bad idea to send an officer to demand ID from participants in a vigil honoring an unarmed man who was killed by police just days earlier. Or, for that matter, putting undercover drug cops on private property in the first place.
Walker's death is reminiscent of the Isaac Singletary incident in Florida from a couple of years ago. Singletary was shot and killed by undercover officers conducting a drug buy on his front lawn. He had confronted the officers with a rifle, thinking they were drug dealers. Those officers were cleared of any wrongdoing. Singletary's family has filed a lawsuit.