Drug Policy

Shem Walker, Drug War Casualty


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.


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  1. Concerned by the high death toll from the War on Drug Users, Obama sends mediators to try to negotiate a peace deal. In a better World, that wouldn’t just be whishful thinking.

  2. And of course this undercover piece of shit won’t face any charges or disciplinary actions for this.

  3. A trespasser responds to a lawful request to leave the property by a resident of the property by shooting and killing the resident.

    Sounds like murder one to me.

    Or a promotion for the triggerman. Either one.

  4. Cops can’t trespass because they are exempt from most laws when on duty. 😉 Sure you could indict a cop for his actions on duty but they almost never found guilty of a crime.

    “””The family says that as they gathered, an NYPD officer pulled up and demanded identification. “””

    And if you didn’t have ID, you would be going to jail. They’ve been using that tactic since the Ghouliani days.

  5. Brazen lack of regard for us “civilians” is being shown by a PD, once again.

    When are more people going to wake up?

  6. This is just so sad…and TYPICAL of the drug war as it continues to destroy lives around the country.

    One death like this should be enough to end the insanity and stop prohibition. Alas, it appears the lives of those crushed by security apparatus are meaningless.

  7. What’s the difference between pigs and criminals?

    The pigs get away with more crime.

  8. Judging from the NYT Article, neither of the clowns pulled a badge or were wearing a uniform. The one clown pulled his gun and Walker grabbed it and got shot twice for his trouble. Sad, just sad.

  9. This shit is insane. If you are pretending to be a drug addict or dealer or something for your undercover work, you shouldn’t be surprised, much less shoot someone for treating you as such. Particularly if you are trespassing on their property.

  10. Mother

  11. The dumb ass with the headphones should have avoided confrontation. As soon as the guy pushed him he should have walked away. The safety of the mission is more important than your bullshit macho he pushed me ego. Both of them need to go down for murder 2 or at least manslaughter.

  12. “””The safety of the mission is more important than your bullshit macho he pushed me ego.”””

    You know your talking about law enforcement, right? As a friend of mine once said, cops are the second toughest guy in the neighborhood, tired of being beat up by the toughest. When you think of it that way, the macho he pushed me ego makes sense.

  13. Just wait ’til Charlie Rangel finds out about this.

  14. @RC Dean

    I actually think it’s murder two. Maybe.

  15. I actually think it’s murder two. Maybe.

    Depends on the state. Given that the murder happened in connection with the violation of other laws (namely, trespassing), I think murder one wouldn’t be out of line.

    I’m not aware that the police are given a license to trespass. Wouldn’t be surprised, though.

  16. Another Balko post and once again, I need a drink.

    I’m not aware that the police are given a license to trespass. Wouldn’t be surprised, though.

    R.C. Dean,
    de jure – no
    de facto – yes

    But you knew that, didn’t you?

  17. I wonder how many terrorists this shooting will create.

  18. The funny thing is that if this had been a real drug dealer, and Walker had been allowing him to deal on his doorstep, Walker could have been sent back to prison for conspiracy.

    Damned if you do…

  19. No, I don’t think Walker could’ve been convicted for conspiracy, but the house could’ve been forfeited as a nuisance.

  20. Yet another reason faith in law enforcement is degrading

  21. Undercover police shouldn’t carry guns.

  22. another one bites the dust.

    I agree with John. No guns for undercover cops.
    how about no guns for cops, and let us abide our 2nd amendment right. Then we wouldn’t need yokle cops.

  23. When are we going to stop makin war on our own citizens and give them back their rights? Bad enuf we have to fight a senseless war overseas,without adding even more stupidity to it by tormenting our citizens at home! This article is just one of many I read every day on the stupidity of the war on our own citizens. Shameful.

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