NEW YORK – A man who told an undercover policeman to get off his family's front steps punched the officer and struggled over the officer's gun before being shot dead, police said Sunday.
Shem Walker hit the officer on the head and grabbed his gun Saturday night, police said. Other officers heard the undercover officer or a plainclothes colleague identify themselves, top police spokesman Paul Browne said.
But Walker's relatives said they were nearby and didn't hear any officers identify themselves, said Councilwoman Letitia James, who visited the family Sunday. The shooting raised questions about police conduct, she said.
The undercover officer was serving as backup for a Brooklyn drug investigation at a deli a few doors down from the home in Brooklyn's Clinton Hill neighborhood, Browne said. The racially and culturally diverse neighborhood is where the rapper The Notorious B.I.G. grew up.
The drug investigation didn't involve Walker, but he came out of the home and told the officer to leave, hitting him on the back of the head and saying, "If you don't move, I'll make you move," the police spokesman said.
When the officer stood up to confront him, Walker punched the officer in the face and the two tumbled to the ground, Browne said. Another plainclothes officer involved in the investigation tried to grab Walker, who shook him off, he said.
The first officer had drawn his gun, and Walker grabbed it, Browne said. The gun went off twice as the two scuffled, shooting Walker once in the chest, Browne said.
Other officers nearby said they had heard someone yell, "Police! Don't move," and a civilian witness heard a shout of "Freeze!" Browne said.
The 36-year-old officer, whose name wasn't released, needed two stitches for a cut to his head. He's been placed on administrative duty, as is standard while shootings are investigated, Browne said.
James, a Brooklyn Democrat, told reporters the discrepancy between the police account and the family's account "raises some serious questions in my mind."
Walker, 49, often asked people not to linger on the front steps, said James, whose district includes the neighborhood, home to actress Rosie Perez and rapper-actor Mos Def.
Walker's sister, Jean Nurse, said he was a "good person at heart" and the father of two daughters. She declined to comment further.