SPECIAL REPORT: Based on what his attorney says is now a “clearer picture” of what happened when a detective for the Hudson County Prosecutor’s Office shot and killed a man in an apparent road-rage incident this past weekend in Maryland, the National Police Defense Foundation has pledged to help pay his legal bills.
The commitment followed revelations by Joseph Walker’s attorney in Maryland that things “didn’t go down the way they said it did,” said Joseph Occhipinti, the founder and president of the NPDF.
“It just doesn’t make sense that things would happen the way it was originally presented,” Occhipinti told CLIFFVIEW PILOT . “An 18-year veteran, a family man with his wife and three kids in the car, away from home. Does anyone really believe that he would provoke someone?”
Walker, his wife and their children – ages 3, 6 and 11 — were headed back to their Burlington County home after attending a young cousin’s birthday party in Maryland Saturday night when their paths crossed with 26-year-old Joseph Harvey Jr.’s just south of Baltimore.
The initial Maryland State Police report, citing a passenger who was with Harvey, said the incident began with Walker cutting them off and both then swerving at one another. At one point, Harvey apparently drove on the shoulder, it says. At another, the passenger told police, Walker pointed a gun at them.
A mile from where the trouble began, both vehicles pulled onto the shoulder of a highway entrance ramp.
Harvey’s passenger, Adam Pidel, told police that he and Harvey got out of their car but that he stayed behind while Harvey walked toward Walker.
At that point, he said, Walker went back to his mini-van and retrieved a gun, which Maryland State Police said was a .45-caliber Glock.
Pidel said he heard a single shot followed by others and took cover.
Prosecutors, in turn, charged Walker with second-degree murder and manslaughter. He remained held on $1 million bail.
According to Occhipinti, the white Harvey was “at least 6 feet tall and 300-some pounds” and repeatedly shouted racial insults at Walker.
Walker, meanwhile, “identified himself as a police officer more than once. But that didn’t seem to make a difference,” he told CLIFFVIEW PILOT . “At that point, he realized that he was in for a fight, and that, if he was disarmed, his wife and children would be at risk.”
After the shooting, Occhipinti said, Pidel went back to Harvey’s car and called someone on a cellphone. He said Pidel then went over to the body, picked something up and retreated.
“We believe the truth is far from what’s been presented here,” said Occhipinti, a highly-decorated former federal agent who once smashed international drug cartels and now helps provide medical and legal support services to law enforcement officers in a dozen countries as part of the NPDF’s work.
Contacted this afternoon, defense attorney Patrick J. McAndrew noted that the Maryland State Police report doesn’t include what he called Harvey’s “enraged” racial insults – not only against Walker but at his family.
Walker may or may not have cut off Harvey, who McAndrew said suddenly pulled alongside the passenger side of the mini-van, screaming.
Walker’s wife and one of their children “could distinctly hear” the racial slurs and “threats of violence,” the attorney told CLIFFVIEW PILOT .
Walker wasn’t thinking there was still trouble when he stopped up ahead, McAndrew said.
Once he saw Walker headed toward him, he said, the officer “displayed his shield,” but Harvey kept getting closer.
“That’s when it became a police officer’s worst nightmare,” the defense lawyer said.
Harvey had closed to within six feet when Walker pulled the trigger once, McAndrew said, disputing Pidel’s claim of multiple discharges.
“This man [Harvey] threatened to kill his family,” the attorney repeated.
Besides the NPDF, other groups are rallying to Walker’s defense. These include PBA Local 232, which represents the detectives of the Hudson County Prosecutor’s Office.
“We think that as the facts emerge, they will shed a different light on the events that occurred,” local President Sean P. O’Leary told CLIFFVIEW PILOT this afternoon.
O’Leary also issued a statement from the union expressing “unwavering support of Detective Joseph Walker in this unfortunate incident for all involved.
“We ask that the public not rush to judgment of this respected family man and Law Enforcement Officer before all facts emerge in this case,” the statement adds.