He was the mellow one. The one officer who did not lose his temper the night of my arrest. He did not utter a single word to me during the time I was detained, but I believe he did not agree with the arrest.
Unfortunately, that is something I will never confirm. He was shot and killed Tuesday in a hail of bullets. He was only 30 years old.
Miami Police Officer James Walker is described as “soft-spoken” and “compassionate” by fellow officers. Another colleague said he had a “knack for calming people down” during domestic disputes. A childhood friend remembered him as a “quiet person” who “never bothered anyone.”
Although I’ve been extremely critical of the officers who arrested me, I know they are not lying about Walker.
On the night of my Feb. 2007 arrest, he had remained in the background as the four other officers surrounded me. If you look closely at the photo on the header of this blog, you can see his left arm behind the third officer from the right.
The close-up photo of Walker above was cropped from the photo below, which was taken seconds after the photo in the header. The photo underneath that photo is the same as the one on top of it, but cropped to where you can see Walker emerge from behind the officer. This was the last photo I took before they pounced on me. You can see the cop on the right getting the signal from the sergeant, who is out of the frame to the left (you can see his stripes in the header photo).
It all started because I had been taking photos of the officers as they were conducting an accident investigation. It was for an article I was working on. They got annoyed and ordered me away from the scene. I refused, insisting that I had every right to photograph them. The sergeant ended up escorting me across the street to the sidewalk on the other side.
They ordered me to keep walking north. I refused again, citing my First Amendment rights to stand on a public sidewalk. I snapped a few more photos.
They lost their temper and pounced on me. One of them bashed my head against the sidewalk. As I told the internal affairs investigator in the following weeks, I am not sure which officer did that.
But I am positive it was not Walker.
During the 90 minutes I spent handcuffed in a Miami police precinct as they filled out the arrest report, I studied each and every one of the officers involved in my arrest. I was able to get a sense of their personalities. I saw how they interacted with each other.
Walker stuck out in my mind because he seemed to march to the beat of his own drum. I remember thinking he looked very young. He was very skinny for a police officer, as if he had never set foot in a weight room. The newspapers say he weighed only 130 pounds.
Despite his light frame, he had a certain confidence about him. Not arrogance or bravado like some of the other officers. Just a certain coolness that he was comfortable with himself.
We exchanged glances several times and he appeared just as curious about me as I was about him.
Not once did he glare at me or shoot me a disapproving look as some of the other officers did. But he never looked away either, like some of the other officers did when I locked eyes with theirs’.
It seemed as if he was telling me that he had no part in this arrest.
Whatever his true thoughts were, it was clear to me that this officer had respect for his fellow man. And for that, he gained my respect.
May he rest in peace.