Less than two weeks after they removed the mourning ribbons from their badges marking the deaths of two officers last month, the Philadelphia Police Department is grieving the loss of yet another one of their own.
Nineteen-year veteran Officer Moses Walker Jr., 40, was found lying on the 2000 block of Cecil B. Moore Avenue with multiple gunshot wounds shortly before 6 a.m. Saturday morning. Clad in street clothes, Walker had just finished his shift at the 22nd District station located at North 17th Street and West Montgomery Avenue, about four blocks away, and is believed to have been en route to the bus stop.
The officer's service weapon was found unholstered and underneath his body, but it does not appear that shots were fired from it. "We don't believe the officer got a chance to fire back," Lt. Ray Evers said. Investigators suspect the motive was robbery. "We're not sure if anything was taken, but there is a very strong leaning that way," Evers said.
Walker was rushed to Hahnemann Hospital, where he died of his injuries. In a somber scene, officials saluted his blanketed body as it was loaded into an ambulance and escorted from the hospital to the morgue by police motorcade.
"We literally just removed the mourning bands from our badges last week
for Officer Lorenzo, and now it appears we may be putting them right
back on again, so it's tough," Commissioner Charles Ramsey told reporters outside the hospital. "This department has
been through an awful lot. In just the four and a half years that I've
been here, this would be the seventh officer we've lost, which is more
than some departments get in 20 years."
The recent spate of officer deaths recalls that of 2008, when within a six month span, Sgt. Stephen Liczbinski, 39, was shot to death after confronting several bank robbery suspects in Port Richmond, Sgt. Patrick McDonald, 30, was killed by a fugitive after a traffic stop in North Philadelphia, Officer Isabel Nazario, 40, was broadsided by a stolen SUV during a pursuit in Mantua and Liczbinski's former patrol partner, Sgt. Timothy Simpson, 46, was killed when his patrol car was struck by a fleeing suspect in Port Richmond.
been a horrible few years," said Fraternal Order of Police Lodge No. 5 President John McNesby. "We've lost a lot of officers to violence on the
streets. There's no regard for police out there today – in this city, anyway. You
can talk about all the tough crime fighting initiatives all you want, but until we
get more cops on the street and guns off the street, unfortunately, these things are going to
happen. We need more cops, we need more equipment and we need community cooperation."
This year, Highway Patrol Officer Brian Lorenzo, 48, a 23-year veteran of the force, was killed in the early morning hours of July 9th as he traveled home from work and an allegedly drunk driver traveling against traffic slammed into his motorcycle on Interstate 95.
About a week later, eight-year veteran Officer Marc Brady, 32, who, like Walker, worked in the 22nd District, was off-duty riding his bicycle in East Mount Airy when he was struck head-on by an SUV driven by his ex-girlfriend's boyfriend.
"There is no rationale or relationship between each one," Evers said when discussing this year's three officer deaths. "There's a DUI, one auto accident where there's someone with a prior history of domestic issues and this appears to be a street robbery, so we really can't look at any of them and say they're linked in any way. It's just very, very unfortunate to have this string of sadness that strikes the police department again."
Police arrested John Leck Jr., 48, of Levittown for the death of Officer Lorenzo. He was charged with homicide by vehicle, DUI and related offenses. Kareem Alleyne, 35, of East Mount Airy, was arrested for Officer Brady's death and charged with homicide by vehicle and involuntary manslaughter.
But investigators have not yet identified a suspect in Walker's slaying and are asking for the public's help in bringing his killer to justice. A search for security footage has proven unfruitful thus far. Evers said several people who might have seen something have been questioned, but the outcomes of those inquiries are confidential. "We're asking anyone else that was in that area to give us a call," he said. "Sometimes that small piece of
information can go a long way."
There is a $35,000 reward for information leading to the suspect's arrest and conviction – the city's standard $20,000 homicide reward, plus an additional $15,000 from Philadelphia's Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 5, which was today increased from the $10,000 offered yesterday.
"Any time something like this happens, it takes a piece out of every one of us," McNesby said. "But the bottom line is we have to get this guy off the street as quick as possible and we need the community to step up. Someone out there knows something." He said in the meantime, the police union will make sure the needs of Walker's family are taken care of during an extremely difficult time.
Anyone with information is urged to call 911 or to submit an anonymous tip by dialing 215-686-TIPS (8477), texting PPDTIP (773847), emailing firstname.lastname@example.org, filling out a form on the department's website.
Mayor Michael Nutter has ordered all city flags to be lowered to half-staff in observance of Walker's death. "Like his brothers and sisters on the force, he was a committed public servant, beloved by his family, friends and colleagues," he said in a statement. "Our condolences and prayers go out to all of them as they cope with their grief in the loss of this good man."
Walker, who would have become eligible for retirement later this year, worked nightly 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. shifts as a turnkey in the cell room of the 22nd District, where he was responsible for processing arrests and monitoring those detained in the holding cell.
"Here he is not working street and still gets taken down by one of the thugs there," McNesby said, though he resisted the notion that Walker's position could be considered lower risk than that of a patrol officer. "As
soon as you put that uniform on, you're a target anyway, whether you're inside or outside – we've had officers killed inside," he said.
"You don't think about that [risk] when you put the uniform on. Communities may, families
may, but officers themselves, it's usually in the back of their mind."
A graduate of Benjamin Franklin High School, Walker entered the police academy in March of 1993 at the age of 21 and
was assigned to the 22nd District, where his uncle also serves as a lieutenant, a year later. "He was known by both
his fellow officers and the residents he served as a courteous, polite
and humble man," an obituary posted on the police department's website
Walker was an an active
member of Deliverance Evangelistic Church on the 2000 block of Lehigh
North Philadelphia. The police obituary describes him as "an optimistic man who always saw
the good in people" and says, "He shined in his church role, teaching
benevolence through his actions as well as his words." He is survived by his mother and five siblings.
"Everything I heard about him, he was just genuinely, genuinely a nice, nice person," Evers said. "Besides being a police officer, he was really involved in his church and church activities and every person we speak to in the 22nd District says he was a kind gentleman. It is a loss and a tragedy to our department and also to the city because he was a kind person with an unblemished record."
Nutter in his statement also paid respect to the three civilians that were shot and killed Friday night into Saturday morning. Four others were injured during that time in violent incidents around the city.
"I also want to note that Officer Walker’s tragic death this morning comes following a night where three civilian Philadelphians lost their lives to senseless gun violence," Nutter said Saturday. "We offer our condolences and prayers to the families of these men."
Saturday's victims were part of a broader crime wave in which four civilians were killed and five were injured – three of them
critically – in the 48 hours spanning Friday and Sunday mornings.