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    “Road Rage” Murder Trial: Off-duty Cop’s Roadside Statement

    “Road Rage” Murder Trial: Off-duty Cop’s Roadside Statement

    MD State Trooper recounts Walker’s initial narrative of shooting while still at the scene; police sketch notes distances involved

    Today we have two additional pieces of evidence from the Maryland “road rage” murder trial of off-duty NJ police officer Joseph Walker in the shooting death of Joseph Harvey, Jr.

    The first is a supplement report produced by the Maryland State Police in which State Trooper Robert Henry recounts what Walker told him at the scene of the events leading up to the shooting. A copy of this report is embedded at the bottom of this post.

    The second piece of evidence is a police sketch of the positions of the two vehicles at the side of the road, as well as blood splatter and bullet casings, with various distance measurements indicated. This, too, is embedded at the bottom of this post.

    MD State Police Supplement Report

    The supplement report captures the interview of State Trooper Robert Henry, who spoke with Walker at the scene of the shooting, by Maryland State Police Lead Investigator Myles Roy. Henry’s recounting of his actions arriving at the scene and his discussion with Walker are captured in bullet-point fashion, and I’ll summarize the more important of those here. (Actual quotes from the report are in block quotes, and all images were created by me.)

    Responding to a “Priority 1” shooting call, Henry arrived at the scene to see two other Maryland State Troopers already on the scene. In the report Walker is repeatedly referenced as “the off duty police officer,” and immediately upon being contacted by Henry Walker displayed his badge and advised that he was an LEO from New Jersey.

    Walker [Kia] advised he was stationary at the left turn signal to turn left onto MD Rt. 3 from eastbound Rt. 175. The victim’s vehicle [Honda] was in the right left turn lane next to his van.

    When the light turned green, both vehicles made the left turn, however the victim’s [Honda] turned into the path of the [Kia].

    Screen Shot 2014-03-13 at 12.36.23 PM

    This caused the [Kia] to go onto the shoulder. As Walker tried to get back into his lane, he noticed the other vehicle wouldn’t allow him back into the lane.

    Walker lowered his window and said, “What are you doing, let me back in.”

    A quick thought:  Walker was in the driver’s seat of the Kia, with the Honda to his right.  So as described Walker would have necessarily lowered his wife’s window to communicate across the width of his own to Harvey.  I find it difficult to imagine myself doing this.  Also, I would expect the window of the Honda Accord to be somewhat lower than that of the Kia minivan, such that from the vantage point of the Kia driver it’s not clear to me that much of the Honda’s driver’s side window would be viewable. If anyone has a Kia and the opportunity to park it alongside an Accord, I’d be interested in your observations on this point.

    Racial Animus Enters the Record with Harvey’s Alleged Use of N-word

    As the report continues, we see the claimed racial malice of Harvey enter the record:

    The driver of the [Honda] (Joseph Harvey) replied, “Fuck you nigger, I ain’t afraid of you.”

    Walker advised he stated, “I’m police, just back away, get away.”

    Walker Oddly Decides to Accelerate Ahead of Harvey’s Vehicle

    Then Walker says he did something which would be totally counter to my own likely reaction in such a situation:

    Walker further advised he accelerated his vehicle to get in front of Harvey’s vehicle. Once in front he proceeded to the right lane.

    It is invariably my policy at even the slightest hint of a road rage interaction that I encourage the other drive to go on ahead.  That way I can keep him under observation, and if the opportunity presents I can turn off the road and disappear such that he would have to physically backtrack in order to deliberately pursue me–a pursuit which would contribute considerably to my reasonable fear.

    Walker stated Harvey’s vehicle was tailgating at this point.  Walker stated he was traveling towards Veteran’s Highway and at the last second he was going to merge back toward I-97 hoping Harvey’s vehicle would continue down Veteran’s Highway.

    Once Walker’s vehicle went onto the merge to I-97, Harvey’s vehicle followed, still tailgating.

    At this point the two vehicles would be traveling along the lengthy left-lane ramp from Rt. 3 onto I-97 (indicated in photo by white rectangle).  A car remaining in the right lane of Rt. 3 would proceed on to Veteran’s Highway.

    Screen Shot 2014-03-13 at 1.41.30 PM

    Walker Decides He’d Rather Let Harvey Go On Ahead, After All

    Walker decided to pull his vehicle to let Harvey’s vehicle go hoping this would end it. Once he pulled over he heard the tires hit the rumble strips. Walker thought he had a flat tire.

    So, NOW walker decided it would be better to have Harvey at his 12 o’clock rather than his 6 o’clock.  Note that had he previously allowed Harvey to go ahead, Walker’s maneuver to break contact by suddenly transiting onto I-97 would have been far more likely to be successful.

    Also, I can’t but note that driving across a rumble strip does not sound all that much like a flat tire–although, in fairness it’s been a couple of decades since I’ve experienced a flat tire.

    Walker Fails to Observe Harvey and Pidel Traverse 164 Feet of Roadway

    Once he stopped, Walker exited his van and went to the back to inspect the tires.  Since none of the back tires were flat, he proceeded to the front of the ban to check the front tires.  While inspecting the front tires, Walkers wife yelled to Walker advising the guys from the vehicle were approaching.

    Hmmm. In the immediate aftermath of a frightening confrontation that arguably endangered both himself and his family, Walker seems oddly incurious about the location of his antagonists.  Even if he had necessarily broken observation while he looked at his rear tires, it seems unimaginable than when walking from the rear of the minivan to the front that he would not raise his eyes and observe Harvey’s vehicle as well as Harvey and Pidel approaching, rather than need to be warned of their advance by his wife.

    Walker Surprised to Find Harvey, Pidel Within 10 Feet of Him

    When he turned around, the two occupants of Harvey’s vehicle were within ten (10) feet of him.

    So, well within the “Tueler 21-feet,” then. Again, very hard to understand how they would close the ~150 feet distance between the vehicles and not be observed by Walker until they were merely 10 feet away.

    Walker pulled out his badge and identified himself as a police officer. Walker told the two gentlemen (Harvey and Pidel) “go away”.

    Harvey replied “Fuck you nigger, I ain’t afraid of you.”

    Walker advised he pulled out his gun and started walking backwards toward the driver’s door.

    At this point, Harvey started to charge at Walker. Walker felt his life and the life of his family was in danger so he fired his weapon.

    Walker advised he fired his weapon 2, 3, or 4 times.

    Walker Claims He Did  Not Retrieve Gun Until Last Few Moments

    Interestingly, Trooper Henry suggests that Walker had not displayed his gun up until this point–such that he was not, as has been speculated, holding his gun at ready watching Harvey traverse the 150 feet to him.  Further, it appears that although Walker was carrying his pistol on his person, he was doing so in perhaps the least accessible manner possible, particularly for a 45ACP handgun.

    When Cpl. Henry was talking to Walker about firing his weapon, Walker motioned as if he retrieved his weapon from a right ankle holster.

    Having some experience wearing a S&W J-frame in an ankle holster, I found this manner of carry neither very comfortable, nor very concealable (admittedly a lesser concern for a cop), nor very accessible (and requiring a serious compromise of mobility while the weapon was being accessed).  Of course, that’s merely my personal experience.  People still buy ankle holsters, so I presume somebody out there likes them.

    Nevertheless, it is simply unimaginable to me that with two larger antagonists confronting him from only 10 feet away, that they would simply stand there while Walker lifted his right ankle to retrieve his pistol or (more properly) went to his left knee to retrieve the pistol. As I imagine the necessary motions and personal dynamics, I find my credulity dangerously strained.

    Also interesting:

    Walker never mentioned anything about the second occupant (Pidel).

    We know that technically this is not correct, as the Trooper earlier referenced Walker recounting  that “the two occupants of Harvey’s vehicle were within ten (10) feet of him.”  So, Walker did mention Pidel.

    Nevertheless, one can’t help but feel that if he had perceived Pidel as roughly equally as threatening as Harvey–a perception that would contribute, perhaps, to a disparity of force fear of death or grave bodily harm–then Walker would have mentioned as much to Henry.

    Certainly, if I’d been compelled to go to my gun against unarmed attackers specifically because there were more of them than me, I’d probably be talking about little else than the fact that there’d been more of them than me.

    In any case, that wraps up the substantive portion of Trooper Henry’s report.

    In the spirit of an excess of caution, I want to note the obvious:  the words being attributed to Walker by Henry in this report are just that–words being attributed to Walker by Henry.  This report was not based on a recorded statement by Walker (although Henry’s statement to Investigator Roy was recorded), nor was Walker given the opportunity to review or correct any errors or omissions in this report.  If asked, Walker might well object to any number of the statements attributed to him by Henry as being incorrect or misleading.

    Police Sketch of Vehicles, Harvey’s Blood, Brass Casings

    The next exhibit, labelled F, is a police sketch of the scene showing the location and position of the two vehicles–a measured 164 feet distance from driver’s door to driver’s door, with Harvey’s blood spatter 7′ 9″ from the front of the Kia’s bumper.  One shell casing was found by the Kia’s passenger-side front wheel, which seems a reasonable location for ejection from a semi-auto pistol fired by the driver’s side of the car.

    The other shell casing was found a full 18′ from the front of the Kia’s bumper, well past the site of blood splatter.  This is clearly NOT a reasonable location for ejection from a semi-auto pistol fired by the driver’s side of the car, but a kicked piece of brass can travel a considerable distance along a hard surface.

    OK, that’s it for today’s “road rage” post.  I have another half-dozen pieces of evidence to post on, and plan to move through all of those over the course of the weekend–so keep your eyes here for daily updates on evidence from the Walker trial.

    –-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, Amazon.com (paperback and Kindle), Barnes & Noble (paperback and Nook), and elsewhere.

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    Comments



     
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    bildung | March 14, 2014 at 1:57 pm

    Pidel mentioned the gun.

    Perhaps he mentioned a badge, but I don’t recall. Did he?

    In any event, according to Walker at least, he informed Harvey he was LEO prior to the bull rush.

    I don’t think the badge issue carries the weight of the gun issue.

    If there was a gun shown, then Pidel and Harvey are just the sort of depraved aggressors who would confront an armed man.

    The jury will think Pidel a liar if he sticks with the ‘didn’t tell Harvey’ line.

    If he retracts the gun bit, then he’s also exposed as a liar.

    Either way, the only person who can contradict Walker’s assertion of a bull rush is fatally discredited.

    The defense is no doubt gleeful about getting ahold of Pidel on the stand.

    They’ll go for the win right there and endlessly complicate all this who pulled over where and so forth stuff until the jury glazes over and doesn’t care.

    Exposing the state’s only witness will easily trump inconclusive circumstantial evidence which is subject to interpretation.


       
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      tom swift in reply to bildung. | March 14, 2014 at 4:09 pm

      Pidel and Harvey are just the sort of depraved aggressors who would confront an armed man.

      So far we haven’t seen a shred of evidence supporting any such claim.

      Yes, both Harvey and Pidel were big and imposing. But physical size is not the Mark of the Beast; it doesn’t imply depravity.

      Yes, one gets annoyed when pushed off the road by some idiot driver. No depravity there.

      Yes, even though the details of who did what and when he did it remain unclear, the bumper car adventure was dangerous and ill-considered, and implies poor judgment. But that’s not depravity.

      Yes, one might very well have used The Word when addressing a person of particular minority status. But that’s poor manners, not depravity.

        The “have not seen one shred of evidence” meme seems naively sanguine. One may reject, doubt or mitigate proffered evidence, but defense statements and prosecutorial allegations are “evidence” of sorts, and already exist in enough quantity to paint the decedent as somewhat of a bully.
        If your statement had been “we have not yet seen any acceptable evidence” etc., referring solely to evidence the jurors would be permitted to consider, it would be a fairer statement, IMO.


           
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          tom swift in reply to 49erDweet. | March 14, 2014 at 7:33 pm

          and already exist in enough quantity to paint the decedent as somewhat of a bully.

          I said nothing about bullies. I rejected allegations of depravity. Should some actual evidence of such appear, I reserve the right to draw different conclusions.


         
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        Ragspierre in reply to tom swift. | March 14, 2014 at 5:55 pm

        That Mobius Loop of an endless mash-up of a Matlock episode and a Batman TV segment is A-freaking-mazing.

        This will be vindicated as a “righteous shoot” that will prosper the cause of civil society and truth, light, and the American way…or something.

        Not satisfied to telekinetically diagnosing sociopathic personality disorder via a single data point, Buldung has transcended to moral diagnoses (“depravity” is nothing if not moral, by definition).

        Of course, many of us were trained as young men to be so “depraved” as to advance on armed adversaries we knew to be armed. Mr. cannot be shown to have had any such knowledge.

        And the rules of evidence are notably absent from the Matlock episode Mr. Buldung has running endlessly in his fervid imagination. One of those controls the scope of cross-examination of any witness.


       
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      Gremlin1974 in reply to bildung. | March 15, 2014 at 3:33 pm

      Actually, there is another witness that dispute the “bull rush”. If you remember Mr. B even said that neither Harvey nor Pidel were running, but walking quickly. Also, we still haven’t even seen all of the evidence that is with this motion to dismiss so making conclusive statements at this point is just silly.

    “F you n*****” is more than poor manners. IMO, angry racial invective is inherently threatening. I’ve been called many ethnic slurs including the n-word and it definitely did not make me feel safe. It made me feel hated with a target on my back. It’s not something to be taken lightly.

    I don’t think people understand how far Harvey pushed the threat level when he starting hurling F-bombs and pejoratives at a black family that he’d just run off the road.


       
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      Baker in reply to gxm17. | March 14, 2014 at 6:13 pm

      I can understand your position about Harvey pushing the perceived threat level but I not yet seen any compelling evidence that Harvey ran anyone or anything off the road other than his own car.


         
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        gxm17 in reply to Baker. | March 14, 2014 at 7:33 pm

        The first diagram (hand drawn over an aerial map) shows Harvey running the Walker family’s van off the road.

        My point is that normally one would expect a driver to make an apology gesture after they’ve unintentionally cut someone off. But Harvey started shouting profanity and racial slurs which makes it appear to be an assault in progress, IMO.


           
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          Baker in reply to gxm17. | March 14, 2014 at 7:48 pm

          I don’t see that as compelling evidence. It does not match up up with any of the other evidence/testimony put forward so far, particularly statements Walker made while on the 911 call.


           
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          JackRussellTerrierist in reply to gxm17. | March 14, 2014 at 8:12 pm

          That was Harvey’s story to the cops after he told a completely different version to dispatch. He wasn’t even smart enough to realize how damaging this would be.

          Why are you selectively choosing Walker’s second version rather than his more spontaneous first version? Why do the very conflicting versions not trouble your support of Walker?

            I’m “selecting” Walker’s roadside statement, complete with diagrams, which happens to be the subject of this post.

            My support of Walker is based on my opinion that a man (Harvey) who would harass a family and *allegedly* try to run them off the road is a man who is easily and reasonably viewed as a deadly threat.

            What if the races were reversed? What if it was a white family who had been harassed by large, angry, racist, profanity-spewing black men? I don’t know about you, but my empathy and support would go to the family. The Walkers had a child in the car. I’m having a hard time getting past that to muster any sympathy for Harvey and Pidel. And I think some jurors would too.


             
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            JackRussellTerrierist in reply to JackRussellTerrierist. | March 15, 2014 at 5:16 am

            We’re not really choosing up sides here. We’re discussing witness and participant statements. Harvey is a jerk. We know that. But we don’t shoot people for being a jerk. According to Pidel, Walker participated in escalating the situation by shouting back and forth with Harvey. That is not the expected conduct of a sworn peace officer with some years of experience.

            The issue is did Walker shoot Harvey in cold blood when he could have retreated, starting with calling 9-1-1 which he did not do, or was he really frightened? His actions are that of an angry man, not a frightened man. Walker having a right to be angry about Harvey’s behavior is not in question, nor is Harvey’s right to be mad in question for that matter. It’s the limit to which it was carried through mutual fighting words which included a communication to fight “They were yelling at each. And then THEY were going to fight” is what Pidel said. Then Walker pulls over and stopped rather than retreating. Then we get the fairy tale about the rumble strips, the flat tire inspection, and not seeing Harvey until Harvey was 10′ away, even though he told dispatch they got out of the car and witnesses saw Walker with his arms crossed looking at Harvey as he advanced 150′. None of Walker’s second story is even slightly plausible except to those who wish it was so.

            If it was a righteous, self defense shoot, there would be no reason for walker to give two very differing accounts within minutes of each other.


           
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          Gremlin1974 in reply to gxm17. | March 15, 2014 at 3:38 pm

          That drawing is simply an interpretation of events according to Walker. Pidel tells a different story, so unless there is a witness to what actually happened that isn’t tainted, (Yes, I consider both Pidel and Walkers wife tainted at this point), then who knows.


       
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      tom swift in reply to gxm17. | March 14, 2014 at 7:35 pm

      To be blunt: If Walker shot a man three times simply because he didn’t like something the guy said, I for one hope he burns.


         
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        gxm17 in reply to tom swift. | March 14, 2014 at 9:51 pm

        Where did I say Walker didn’t “like” what Harvey said? Nowhere. I said that what Harvey said could reasonably be considered threatening especially after he tried to run your family off the road. There is a chasm of difference between not “liking” certain words vs. feeling threatened by them.


       
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      JackRussellTerrierist in reply to gxm17. | March 14, 2014 at 8:06 pm

      Ridiculous, over-dramatized hogwash.


       
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      Gremlin1974 in reply to gxm17. | March 15, 2014 at 3:36 pm

      So are you suggesting that simply yelling expletives at someone can make shooting them justified? Frankly, your statement is kind of unclear.

      Yes, apparently Harvey was a moronic racist bigot, but that isn’t against the law, just ask the KKK and the Westboro Baptist Church.


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