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    Off-duty cop “Road Rage” 911 call: “I had to fire my weapon.”

    Off-duty cop “Road Rage” 911 call: “I had to fire my weapon.”

    NJ police officer Walker recounts to 911 his shooting of Joseph Harvey, Jr.

    Today’s post on the Joseph Walker “road rage” murder trial in Maryland covers the 911 call made by Walker and his wife, apparently simultaneous with Adam Pidel’s 911 call previously covered here:  Off-duty cop “Road Rage” 911 call: “They were going to fight on side of road”.

    (The transcript of this 911 call was attached as Exhibit D to the defense’s recent motion to dismiss the charges against Walker, and copy is provided at the bottom of this post. This transcript includes attribution of the use of the “N-word” to Harvey by Walker, as Walker describes events to the dispatcher.)

    The call appears to have been initiated by Elaine Walker, the wife, but Walker himself takes control of the call within moments of the dispatcher coming on the line. (Walker is identified as “MALE” in the transcript, and his wife as “FEMALE”.)

    Walker’s first words to the dispatcher serve to anchor his narrative, and in the passive voice at that:

    A police officer got attacked by two people.

    He then identifies himself and provides more detail in the first person:

    Joseph Walker with the Hudson County Prosecutor’s Office, two people ran us off the road. And they came and attacked me.  And I had to fire my weapon at one of them. . . .

    I had to fire my weapon.  We need an ambulance out here.

    I’m an off-duty police officer from New Jersey. My name is Detective Joseph Walker with the Hudson County Prosecutor’s Office. They ran us off the side of the road–

    As was the case with Pidel, Walker initially had some difficulty in identifying their specific location for the dispatcher, but it did not take long to straighten out.  Around this same time Walker’s wife notes that Pidel (whose name was unknown to her at the time, of course) was also calling on his cell phone–this would have been Pidel’s 911 call.

    There’s another guy calling 911 right now. I think he’s calling. I don’t know what he be doing.

    At this point Walker is sitting in the Kia minivan alongside his wife, close enough that both their voices are captured in the 911 recording clearly enough to be transcribed.

    Walker again sought to describe the events to dispatcher:

    Like I said, two of them came out the car. And the heavyset, the driver came at me.  And the other person that was with him, he’s talking to him [presumably this is where Pidel was urging Harvey to keep breathing, as captured in Pidel’s 911 recording].

    Asked by the dispatcher if they’d had a car accident, Walker said no, then continued:

    We don’t know what happened. We were trying to get onto the highway. And the guy, he just came up like beating around our car. And we were, you know — I’m like trying to not him him. And he just kept trying to swerve into me. And then I rolled down my window and said, “You know, what’s your problem?” And he was like “Nigger, I’m not afraid of you.” Nigger this, nigger that.

    When asked by the dispatcher what happened to Harvey, Walker again lapses into the passive voice, and then re-emphasizes the disparity of numbers and threatening conduct:

    He was shot.

    Him and the other person in his vehicle, they pulled us off the road. When I came over off the road onto this little skid place here — him and the other individuals were coming out of their vehicle.

    Walker’s use of the passive voice clearly confuses the dispatcher, giving rise to this exchange:

    Dispatch: Okay. The person that shot him, is he still there?

    Walker: Yes. That’s, ma’am, that’s me.

    Dispatch: That’s you. Okay. What is your name?

    Walker: I’m a police officer. Joseph Walker.

    The transcript gets a little confusing at this point as there are two different dispatchers engaged in discussion with Walker and each other, and there’s some repetitive exchange of information as a result.

    Soon after, however, the police arrive, and dispatch turns things over to the responding officers.

    Here’s the actual transcript of Walker’s 911 call:

    –-Andrew, @LawSelfDefense

    Andrew F. Branca is an MA lawyer and the author of the seminal book “The Law of Self Defense, 2nd Edition,” available at the Law of Self Defense blog, (paperback and Kindle), Barnes & Noble (paperback and Nook), and elsewhere.


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    Richard Aubrey | March 13, 2014 at 7:53 am

    Gremlin, I think that would give anybody religion.
    I am thinking hard about carrying. Thing is, I can recall half a dozen times going toward trouble without thinking. More, if you define trouble as potential when I saw whatever it was happening. Twice, when I reported to the cops afterwards, they asked why I hadn’t called them. I had no answer. Never occurred to me.
    And, if Mr. B is to be believed, if I flee trouble and find myself in a blind alley, a DTR prosecutor would insist I was in a blind alley because I wanted to suck the guy in.

      tom swift in reply to Richard Aubrey. | March 13, 2014 at 10:51 am

      I am thinking hard about carrying.

      Well, you’re on the right track. Thinking hard is the first step, a step I suspect too many skip entirely. There are some non-obvious pitfalls. Here, a modest example –

      Once when I returned to my house I noticed that someone had broken in; I had only been out about fifteen minutes, so the someone was probably still inside. Nowadays everyone has cell phones and can summon authority, but not back then. I went in, retrieved a locked gun, and proceeded to clear the house methodically, room by room, closet by closet, from the attic down. State of mind? I would not have shot someone for merely breaking into the house. I would not even have shot him for violating the sanctity of my home. But I might have shot him if he’d attacked me after being apprehended. Well, I never apprehended him; I deliberately made enough noise to alert him that he was being hunted, and he’d skedaddled before I got the floor where he’d broken in. He left in such a rush he’d actually cut himself on the window frame (blood spoor – cool!).

      Now for the speculation: suppose he’d been too dumb to get out while the getting was good, had been confronted by the angry homeowner (ie, me), had lunged at me with something nasty (like a knife), and I had given him a fatal dose of lead poisoning. Would I be charged? This is in my own damn home, but Castle Doctrine applies when I’m in my home and someone who has no business there breaks in. But I wasn’t in the home when the n’er-do-well broke in, I was outside. In order for the speculative deadly encounter to occur, I would have to go back into my own house, knowing that an intruder was probably still inside. I couldn’t claim that I was afraid the intruder was a (automatically deemed) threat to my life & limb, because if I was I’d have just stayed outside. I’m not even sure that regular, non-Castle Doctrine standards of self defense would apply, because if I had confronted the burglar and then been attacked, a sharp prosecutor could still claim that I had deliberately gone into a situation I knew was a dangerous one, so I wasn’t really on the “defense” at all.

      In the event, nothing happened, I gave the goon the chance to get away, and he took it. And I have no worry that he’ll be back; I strongly suspect that it was some local kid looking for money for drugs, and the episode probably scared him out of six year’s growth. But it’s why I carry today. I’m interesting in defending my house, but that’s tough if I don’t have the tools needed (one of my guns); but in my state there are major legal obstacles to leaving a gun in my car, even locked up. It’s actually far easier to (legally) carry it all the time that it is to stash it away for emergencies. Yeah, it’s a pretty f’ed-up state.

      So, as I said … non-obvious pitfalls await the unwary.

      Gremlin1974 in reply to Richard Aubrey. | March 13, 2014 at 7:53 pm

      First let me say that I agree with Mr. Swifts comment.

      Your concerns sound to me like the concerns that you should be having if you are thinking about living the lifestyle of someone that carries. Make no mistake it is a lifestyle change. It changes the way you dress, where you go, and how you carry yourself in public.

      If you are thinking about carrying, seriously no plug intended, get Andrew’s book, I promise it will help. Also, I don’t know what is required in your state to get a permit or if you even need one. What I will say is that if you look you can find a class on concealed carry, find one at a reputable place and take it, especially look for ones that are NRA approved.

      Also realize that if you are wanting to carry so you can feel like a bad ass, that is not a good reason, not implying that you are.

      I get asked all the time how I can justify carrying a gun, because I am a Nurse, I have taken an oath to save lives, to help the sick and injured, and to assist patients. My answer has been the same for years; “Well I can’t do any of that if I am dead because someone decided to knife me for the 13 bucks in my wallet, could I?”

      The main stream media and liberals want everyone to think that anyone who carries a gun is either crazy or a predator, the truth is we are neither, we are simply people who have made a conscious choice to try to not be a victim in an increasingly dangerous world.

      Andrew has one of the best quotes that I have every read about carrying and one that I tell anyone who talks to me about possibly carrying; “Carrying a gun doesn’t mean that you don’t have to take crap from anybody, carrying a gun actually means that you have to take crap from almost everybody.” and that is 100% true.

    Just want to add that, IMO, when Harvey was shouting racial epithets at the black family’s van, then the entire family had reason to fear. Whether or not Harvey only had a “grouse” with Walker, I think the racial invective would have struck fear into Walker’s wife and child too. As I said, who does that? IMO, that’s an extreme that shows someone (Harvey) was out of control.

      pjm in reply to gxm17. | March 13, 2014 at 9:17 am

      Yup. Any white man who who yells ‘N**’ at a black man like that, especially in front of his family who are also black, is making it clear that he is looking for a fight ‘right here right now it’s on’. That = ‘making a threat’. The law calls it ‘uttering fighting words’, I think.

      The intent of a threat, any threat, is to put someone in fear.

      Walker, and I’m sure his family, received the intended message.

      tom swift in reply to gxm17. | March 13, 2014 at 10:22 am

      “Control” isn’t the issue. The big issue is Imminent Deadly Threat. Was there, or wasn’t there?

      We have some parties here whose only virtue is a malignant persistence, and they keep trying to divert discussion to Harvey’s merits. But unless those allow some reasonably clear conclusions about the “state of mind” of either party, such consideration is just a red herring. The purpose of the trial is not to give Harvey some sort of approval or admonition of his life story, but to determine if Walker was justified in shooting three bullets into him.

        gxm17 in reply to tom swift. | March 13, 2014 at 1:36 pm

        IMO, shouting racial invective kicks the threat level into top gear. And I can empathize with the family who feels threatened. I’ve had black friends who talk about this sort of thing scaring the [email protected] out of them because of the history of blacks being targeted by racists. IMO, I’d feel the same way if it was a white family being pursued by black racists shouting racial pejoratives. IMHO, anger and racial animosity are a deadly mix.

          tom swift in reply to gxm17. | March 14, 2014 at 5:20 am

          anger and racial animosity are a deadly mix.

          Doesn’t matter in cases of lethal force used in self defense. Anger, animosity, threats, words – none of them lead inexorably and immediately to death or major bodily harm, and so none of them justify deadly force in response.

            Angry words by themselves do not justify a deadly force response.

            But angry words combined with some physical action reasonably perceived to make those words real may very well justify a deadly force response.

            And the physical action need not be much–appearing to reach for a pocketed weapon can be sufficient.

            It is important, however, to be able to articulate the specific action in question.

            Similarly, the action alone might not be sufficient–maybe he’s reaching for his wallet?–but when combined with the angry words it becomes sufficient.

            –Andrew, @LawSelfDefense

    Richard Aubrey | March 13, 2014 at 11:11 am

    Tom Swift
    Absolutely right. That’s why I, IANAL, used the metaphor of dueling windows. The prosecutor’s window must be wide and long for Walker to have had an obvious and easy avenue to retreat. The defense has to show a miniscule and even absent window for retreat.
    Part of the characterization of the window is the actions and bearing of Harvey.
    As I said, the prosecution wants the jury to know that Walker should have seen the threat immediately Harvey got out of his car, and taken off. But that means the jury will have to be instructed on how threatening Harvey must have looked even 150 ft. away. A kind of mutually exclusive set of pictures for the jury if Harvey is to be seen as so non-threatening that he didn’t need killing. There’s a lot about Harvey that Walker didn’t know and so wouldn’t factor into his decision. But the problem is…Harvey was so threatening Walker should have taken off. Gonna be hard to sell that without some of Harvey’s life coming in somehow.
    Then, of course, there’s Harvey’s behavior in the preceding few minutes which Walker might have–probably will be told it would be a good idea to have–presumed would continue if Walker got back on the road. IOW, no avenue that way, a reasonable person might think.

      Gremlin1974 in reply to Richard Aubrey. | March 13, 2014 at 8:37 pm

      “Gonna be hard to sell that without some of Harvey’s life coming in somehow.”

      And in a lot of places your attackers past can only be considered if you were aware of that past, which couldn’t be the case here. Now I find Maryland’s law on this a bit confusing because it seems to add a special circumstance for “committing violent acts”, and frankly I don’t understand how it applies.

      I think the prosecution is gonna concentrate on the duty to retreat angle and back that up with a claim that shooting Harvey was unreasonable. I can hear the closing argument now.

      “Ladies and Gentlemen of the Jury the defendant allowed Mr. Harvey to walk 152 feet, not run, not charged, walked over 150 feet. During that 150 feet, what was the defendant doing? Was he saying stay back? Was he displaying his badge and saying “Stay back”? Was he attempting to find out what Mr. Harvey was so upset about? Was he attempting to deescalate the situation in any way? NO! He stood there with his arms crossed and waited until Mr. Harvey was within 6 to 10 feet and then he callously and intentionally drew his Service Weapon, the weapon he is supposed to use to protect and serve, and he shot Mr. Harvey. He shot Mr. Harvey who was unarmed, had not displayed a weapon, he shot him and hit him in the leg. The defendant would have you believe that this was an accident that he just fired a “warning shot”. You have heard from our experts and seen the documentation from Detective Walkers own agency that “Warning shots” are not an accepted practice. (I refuse to believe that any angecy actually condones “warning shots”.)

      Well this was the grand daddy of all “warning shots”, this was the “Warning Shot” that killed Mr. Harvey. The “warning shot” that severed his femoral artery and doomed him to death on the side of the road. So after his “warning shot”, what did the defendant do? Did he wait to see if it was effective? Did he take just 2 steps back and see if it had an effect. We have testimony from Mr. Pidel saying that he saw the victims leg lift off of the ground and saw him turn sideways as if he had been hit. So did Detective Walker take just 2 steps backward to see if the victim advanced again? Did he open the distance? Did he do any of these things? NO! He raised the gun higher and put 2 more bullets into the man with the already fatal wound.

      Ladies and Gentlemen I am a prosecutor and officer of the court. I have seen many cases of Self Defense in which I have recommended that no charges be filed. But when I look at a case were a Trained and Experienced Police Officer allows an obviously unarmed man advance up to him, without trying to deescalate the situation and then pulls his Service Weapon in full view of his children and guns down an unarmed man, I do not see Self Defense, Ladies and Gentlemen I see murder.”

      Wow, I think I was channeling John Guy for a moment there, lol. This will of course come after the arguments that Walker could have driven away and had plenty of time to do so.

      To me, I think Walker was in fear of his life, I don’t feel that his fear was justified, which is why I have said Imperfect self defense and manslaughter.

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