“Road Rage” Murder Trial: Walker Appeared to Goad Harvey: “Come on.”
“[Walker] was standing like he was kind of daring [Harvey] to come, like, come on.” “[Walker] made head nod, like come on.”
Our next piece of evidence from the Joseph Walker trial is the transcribed interview of a pair of witnesses, a married couple traveling together, who drove by the shooting scene. Their names have been redacted from this transcript, so because this transcript was attached as Exhibit G to the defense’s recent motion to dismiss the charges against Walker, I will refer to them as Mr. and Ms. G.
The interview is conducted by the Maryland State Police’s Lead Investigator on this case, Trooper First Class (TFC) Myles Roy, on June 13, 2013, five days after the incident on June 8.
Ms. G was driving their vehicle, which contained just herself and her husband. They were driving on Route 3 northbound to I-97, the same stretch of road on which Walker would shoot Harvey. TFC Myles asked them to describe what they saw as they approached the scene.
Walker Already Standing by Minivan When Harvey and Pidel Exit Honda
Ms. G: We saw two vehicles pulled to the side. We saw a gentleman in a minivan get out, cross his arms, and do like a head nod kid of thing. And then we saw two gentlemen in the car in front get out and start approaching the man at the minivan.
TFC Roy: Then you said there were two people in that Honda.
Ms. G: I actually saw them outside the car. I saw one approaching from the passenger’s side, and I saw one approaching from the driver’s side. And they are both walking towards the minivan, the gentleman and the minivan.
And near the end of the transcript:
Mr. G: The little car [Harvey’s Honda], they were like – he was shutting the door and started making his way towards the minivan.
That, then, was the start of their observation of the conflict. They passed when Harvey and Pidel were not yet halfway to the minivan, and Mr. G observed a few moments longer through his rearview mirror.
TFC Roy: Where were they in reference to the actual vehicle? Like how far away from the vehicle did you see them get?
Ms. G: I saw them get – they were not halfway distance between their car and the minivan when I passed them.
Walker “Very Large,” Harvey “Stocky,” Pidel Smaller
TFC Roy: Okay. Can you describe that man that was next to the van?
Ms. G: Very large African American man, looked like he was bald. Very large, 6’ 5”, 6’ 6”, somewhere around there probably.
Ms. G: The gentleman, the driver, looked to be heavyset to me. And I believe he was wearing shorts. And so – I remember him. And I remember the passenger gentleman to look smaller in statute than the gentleman that was driving.
No Weapons Were Observed
TFC Roy: Did you happen to see if they had anything in their hands, any kind of weapons or anything like that?
Ms. G: I saw their hands, kind of that stocky, blown-up chest walk from the driver, but I didn’t see anything in his hands.
TFC Roy: Okay. How about the driver of the van?
Ms. G: I did not see anything in his hands. I
TFC Roy: Sir, did you see anything in either of their hands?
Mr. G: No. I didn’t see anybody having any weapons.
Mr. G: Walker Appeared to Goad Harvey, and Harvey Eager to Confront
They did, however, described Walker as presenting a demeanor they perceived as goading Harvey and Pidel to approach. This is vastly different than Walker’s recounting at the scene that he was inspecting his tires and did not observe Harvey and Pidel until they were within 10 feet of him at his minivan.
Mr. G: Like she said, he was standing like, kind of like to me, in my point of view, he was like kind of daring him to come, you know, like you say, you know, come on, you know.
TFC Roy: And who are you talking about?
Mr. G: I’m talking about the guy in the minivan. He was standing there asking them to come on. They were both like the same distance apart, maybe not even 10, 15 feet away from the trunk of their car heading towards him. The driver [Harvey], a stocky, big guy, it looked like his hands were clenched and like in a pissed-off manner, was heading towards him, like he wanted to confront them.
Mr. G: And, you know, after we passed him up, I looked in my rearview mirror. And it looked like the black guy leaned over, opened his door, and reached in for something. And I don’t know what it was or anything. He didn’t pull out anything by the time we passed.
Ms. G: Walker Made “Head Nod, Like Come On”
TFC Roy: Did you hear anything?
Mr. G: Not at all.
Ms. G: And I didn’t see any lips moving, like somebody – like they were exchanging anything.
TFC Roy: No hand gestures?
Ms. G: I just saw the head nod, like come on.
TFC Roy: And that was from the guy with the van?
Ms. G: Yes, sir. And, of course, I’m inferring what he was thinking. You know, he may have been – maybe that’s a nervous tic that he has. I’m just inferring that’s what it looked like to me. That he was like come on.
Witnesses Describe Walker as “Aggressive” and Harvey as “Ready to Rumble”
Mr. G: I didn’t think it would have been somebody dying, or, you know, or him pulling out a gun.
TFC Roy: But did you think it may escalate to a fight or something like that?
Mr. G: Yeah, because he came – he came with an aggressive attitude. And, you know, the guy who was walking towards the minivan, he was like ready to rumble. And – and obviously, the other guy was nudging him on, you know. He was like come on. So I – I thought they were just – if it was a fist fight, that happens all the time, you know.
Harvey Closed on Walker at a Fast Walk, Not a Run
TFC Roy: Did you get a sense of haw fast they were traveling towards the van?
Ms. G: I didn’t feel like they were traveling that fast. They surely weren’t running.
Mr. G: I though it was like he wanted to get there, you know, kind of. He looked like he was, you know, ready to go over there and see what’s going on.
TFC Roy: But he wasn’t like running or sprinting.
Mr. G: No.
TFC Roy: Would you describe like a faster paced walk or –
Mr. G: Yeah.
TFC Roy: And then was that both of them?
Mr. G: In the beginning? Yeah.
TFC Roy: Looking in the rearview mirror, did you ever seem them break apart or one person slow down or –
Mr. G: No.
Walker Not Seen to Display Any Indicia of LEO Status
TFC Roy: You saw the gentleman standing next to the van – obviously it’s now known that he was a police officer – did you see any kind of identification—
MS. G: No, sir.
Mr. G: No.
TFC Roy: — that would have led for you to believe that he was a police officer, whether he was holding a badge or wearing a badge? Or did you see a gun holster –
Ms. G: No, sir.
TFC Roy: — any kind of police gear or –
Mrs. G: No, sir.
Mr. G: Not at all.
And that’s it for the substantive part of the transcript. Here’s the whole thing, for your viewing pleasure:
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I probably missed this but what is Walker’s height?
“Det. Walker is actually 5 feet 11½ inches and weighs about 210 lbs”
(per a footnote in the Motion to Dismiss)
They may know the make of the van because they’ve owned one before.
Walker standing next to the van may have looked bigger compared to the height of the van. Plus they’re sitting in a car lower and that makes anyone look larger standing out side.
It contradicts Walker’s testimony that Harvey and Pidel surprised him while he was checking his tires.
What did he reach back into the van for? (the gun? the phone?)
He may have made a different motion that inferred “come on” to them but they don’t remember it or can’t articulate it.
Pidel’s testimony has always seemed self serving.(and btw, why hasn’t Pidel been charged with assault or threatening?)
Of course Walker’s testimony will be self serving but has he mentioned reaching back in the car? He lied about being surprised by them.
Harvey was unarmed on his approach to Walker.
I’m still asking why he only shot Harvey and Pidel also.
Pidel’s testimony has always seemed self serving.
Well, I should hope so. Otherwise it could be impeached on the grounds that Pidel isn’t of sound mind.
I’d expect both Pidel’s and Walker’s accounts to be skewed in their own interests. We can’t require more than that, or we’d be forcing them into self-incrimination.
(and btw, why hasn’t Pidel been charged with assault or threatening?)
Ummm, whom did he assault?
The state seems unimpressed by possible assault charges; otherwise, Walker probably wouldn’t have been charged with anything. Well, except for that pestilential “duty to retreat” thing.
Maybe Walker didn’t shoot Pidel because he wasn’t slinging the enword at Walker. Walker emphasized Harvey’s use of the enword several times. It seems like it really stuck in his craw.
Or it makes an excellent shield.
Witness some of the comments here. That word (in the minds of some people) strikes fear in the hearts of veteran police officers, doncha know.
A powerful empathetic response. Remember how it was used in the Zimmerman trial.
Yeah, I saw those posts, lol! 🙂 Also, ol’ bildung’s got Walker afflicted with PTSD to explain Walker’s widely differing tales. Hilarious the lengths they will go to, just like the Zimmerman case.
If I understand your understanding of MD law, the prosecution can label anything it pleases as an avenue of retreat and indict on that basis. That would be the extension of your description.
To use my analogy, if I decided not to run down an obviously blind alley, the prosecution could say that there was a possibility that something else besides debouching into a busy street might have been available.
Now, I understand that’s a stretch. But prosecutors, who are not reluctant to withhold exculpatory evidence, would not likely have any scruples about claiming that, if they thought a somnolent jury of fatheads following a high-carb lunch would buy it.
I guess I would be concerned, were I a prosecutor, about whether the jury contained anybody with an IQ above 100 in the Walker case. Jurors can null something that seems so incredibly cattywampus to sense and justice.
As I’ve said before, this is a case of dueling windows: Prosecution wants the longest window of opportunity to escape/retreat while defense wants none, or at least the shortest possible.
I am in a SYG state and so this is difficult for me to accept as a result of American legislative processes.
the prosecution can label anything it pleases as an avenue of retreat and indict on that basis.
No. As I understand it, it doesn’t have to be easy, or even effective, but it has to be possible. The state can’t demand that you signal to your buddies to pick you up in their flying saucer, or that you use a teleportation device to escape, or that you drive away down a road which doesn’t exist or is blocked off for repairs. It can’t demand that you ford a river in flood, or cross a busy four-lane highway, or run through a burning forest. But anything short of those extremes? Yes, the state can probably consider pretty much anything else to be an available path of retreat.
I’m certainly not saying that I approve of any of this.
Yep, from what Andrew has said on the subject, basically if you are at the end of a dead end alley that is blocked by a 6 foot fence and you have time to at least try to climb that fence before your attackers are on you and you don’t at least try to climb then you missed a reasonable route of retreat. Even as silly as that sounds.
I don’t think I ever said THAT. 🙂
I probably said something like: “In a duty-to-retreat state, if there exists a safe avenue of retreat you are required to take advantage of it before you may use deadly force–and in a few of those states, like MA, even non-deadly force–in self-defense.”
Whether there existed a “safe avenue of retreat” is obviously subject to a great deal of hindsight on the part of police, prosecutors, judges, and juries. Thus, the danger.
Sorry I was very tired when I wrote that and I didn’t mean it to seem like I was actually quoting you. My apologies. I was trying to think of a kind of out there example that actually still made sense, but anyhow, I blame is on the sleep deprivation, lol.
If Walker was truly frightened, his first act of retreat would be to call 9-1-1 or have his wife do it while he watched the road and Harvey, but he didn’t do that. He waited until AFTER he shot Harvey THREE times and then they called 9-1-1, first to report that an officer, who didn’t have a scratch on him, had been attacked. Neither Walker’s wife nor Walker said “WE were attacked”, so where’s the fear for his family? The dispatcher had to drag it out of Walker that he was the officer in question and that he was off-duty.
I have a totally different take, and question, about these witnesses. Now, I am not a lawyer, so…..maybe I’m totally off. But….
Would it matter that the witness (Mr. G) was looking in a mirror, in particular a passenger rear-view-mirror? Wouldn’t that give a distorted view of what is seen? And, it’s very limited in what can be seen, and how much, because of a rear view mirror’s small size – and its placement on the vehicle.
The passenger mirrors in most cars say (or older ones use to say), “Objects in mirror are closer than they appear.” Did this mirror say that? Was it a vehicle that had a large mirror, or a small one (depending on the vehicle, they vary so much). Plus, everything would have been happening in inverse, while traveling at a fair speed, and probably at an angle beneficial to the driver. Not very good vantage for “eye witness” testimony, I believe, and I would think easily disputed as to accuracy by a defense attorney.
So many things they (Mr. & Ms. G) describe are very subjective, often only their opinion and interpretation of what they “saw,” with the added distortion of their “view” of events, or at least Mr. G’s “view” by a mirror…..
To me, their “eye witness” testimony can easily be tossed out, or at least most of Mr. G’s statement.
The witnesses made clear the parts of their statement wherein they interpreted what they saw versus what the objectively saw.
If called to testify, their statement will be scrutinized carefully by the defense or should be and the issues you raised will likely be brought up. That’s the lawyer’s job.
while traveling at a fair speed,
All of this action happened on the ramp whereby Rt 3 North feeds onto Rt 97, and ramp traffic isn’t generally at highway speeds. I don’t know what the ramp speeds are in Maryland, but here in pokey ol’ New England they’re too often a ridiculous 25 mph. That’s practically parked; I’d say it would leave plenty of time for leisurely views of the scenery or any of the local sights.
**To me, their “eye witness” testimony can easily be tossed out, or at least most of Mr. G’s statement.**
I guess you mean that from the POV of a juror, which is fine.
Before you “toss it out” think about the last time you drove through your neighborhood at, say 35 mph. Could you tell the neighbor was burning leaves, and was still raking? If he was smoking a pipe, might you see it? Could you tell the kids were playing hop-scotch and not cowboys and indians? That dog walking along…what breed was it, and how many pups was it nursing with those distended teets?
Look at something in the rear-view mirror while sitting in the passenger seat. You might not count the pimples on a teenager’s face, but you COULD tell it was a teenager and what they were wearing, and if they leaned into a car, right?
In your neighborhood, do dogs walk & nurse at the same time? 🙂
Hell yeah! In Texas, we have very determined pups!
Tom Swift. My father, from CT, says the reason Antiques Road Show doesn’t do New England is that the folks aren’t through using that stuff.
Merging speed is whatever it takes to merge. In my state, some exit ramps from the interstate are posted 25mph, which will get you rear-ended if you try it. Some entrance and exit traffic patterns require merging at highway speed. While you’re trying to get to the right to exit, people are coming in from the right trying to get up to speed. Speed limit signs are a waste of money and you don’t have an instant’s free attention to look at them. Dual or triple turn lanes, as in this case, provoke paranoia as to the guy who just went into your left rear blind spot.
This sort of thing is free-form traffic patterning, depending on the other guys, and from time to time you make a good defensive move and everybody goes on their appointed rounds.
And everybody freaking knows it, which is one reason a jury is going to wonder what kind of nutcase Harvey is/was, and what Walker could reasonably think about it.
Due to an old injury, I can’t turn my head very far, so I have to make sure the views in my mirrors overlap and, simultaneously, feed into what I can see by turning my head. Mess up the mirrors and some good part of the world may as well be in the Twilight Zone. Which, also, jurors know.
As to avenues to retreat: I can see–based on what I’ve read in the last few years–a prosecutor insisting that I had no way of knowing the blind alley didn’t actually have a way out. And if it didn’t, that I chose it to suck the guy in.
Full disclosure, I had a relation who was among five courtmartialed for causing the suicide of a soldier in Iraq. In order for the Army to get smooshy with the editorial board of the New York Times, the prosecution withheld exculpatory evidence. I’ve read numbers of reports of this sort of thing–Nifong was no one-off–and I’d trust a riverboat gambler before a prosecutor. If that hasn’t been clear so far.
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