Two relatives of David Walker took the witness stand Thursday to describe an emotional and chaotic scene on the day the 25-year-old was fatally shot by Orem and Pleasant Grove officers.
In testimony that spanned two days, Walker's sister, Patricia Stratton, said she was worried when her brother ran off in her old beat-up Subaru without her permission. He had been depressed over his pending divorce and the fact that he didn't get to see his children on Christmas.
On Dec. 29, 1998, Walker called the family's rural Lehi home and told his mother, Debbie Walker, that "he had nowhere else to go" and talked about killing himself, Stratton said.
Concerned, Stratton said her mother called police and reported the car stolen to get them involved in locating him. That prompted a police chase of Walker through three cities, ending outside the family's house.
Stratton said she saw her brother pull out a 2-inch box cutter and turn toward Orem Sgt. Harold Peterson and Pleasant Grove officer John Clayton, placing the blade against his wrist as if threatening to cut himself.
"I just wanted to hug him and tell him it would be OK," said Stratton, crying on the witness stand.
She said she and her mother yelled at police that Walker didn't have a gun but got no response. Then there were gunshots.
"I heard a shot," Stratton said crying. "David stumbled back ... he grabbed his lower stomach ... "
Walker was shot twice by Peterson and then two more times by Clayton. Both men are being sued by the family for constitutional violations, as well as pain and suffering.
After the shooting, Stratton said police rounded up family members and little was done to provide medical assistance to Walker. While police questioned her, Stratton said she looked out the window of the family home and watched her brother lie on the ground, dying. Walker lived just under two hours before dying at American Fork Hospital and before family members were released from 90 minutes of questioning and could make it to the hospital.
Andrew Morse, attorney for Peterson, pushed Stratton on whether or not she could hear police sirens at the time of the shooting. After pressing Stratton several times, Stratton ended up breaking down on the stand in frustration.
Tyree Lamph, who was Walker's brother-in-law at the time of the shooting, took the stand to describe the scene as "surreal."
When Walker turned to face officers with the blade at his wrist, Lamph said for a split second he thought Walker had a gun.
Both officers claim they shot Walker thinking he had a gun, but no gun was found.
After the shooting, Lamph said an officer slammed him up against the wall of his nearby home, demanding to know where the gun was. "He said, 'Where's the gun?' and I said he didn't even have one," Lamph said.
"I was shaking like crazy," said Lamph, adding his wife and children were inside his home "freaking out."
Attorneys for the two officers suggested that Walker may have had a drug addiction at the time, lending to his condition. However, assistant Utah medical examiner Dr. Maureen Frikke testified that several tests on Walker's blood and other fluids found no traces of opiates, cocaine, amphetamines or alcohol. On cross examination, Frikke said Walker was not tested for marijuana.The trial continues today.
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