By Sadef Ali Kully
Neighbors and family friends created a small makeshift memorial decorated with flowers, ribbons, and teddy bears in front of the home where three female members of a family in Rosedale were shot to death by the man who lived with them and left his 12-year-old daughter fighting for her life, police said..
The gunman was Jonathan Walker, 34, who fled the scene and was later found dead of a self-inflicted gunshot wound in his car seven miles away, authorities said.
The victims were identified as Walker’s partner, Shanti Hale, a 31-year-old woman; her 62-year-old mother, Viola Warren; and his 7-year-old daughter Kayla Walker, police said. All three were pronounced dead at the scene, police said. The shootings occurred about 5:40 a.m. on Saturday morning near 231st Street and 148th Avenue.
The nostalgic bright, yellow crime scene tape that sealed off the dead-end home told the story of violence suffered and lost lives but was soon replaced by the memorial. In sharp contrast, Shanti Hale’s and Jonathan Walker’s Facebook profiles painted a picture of two parents who loved their daughters.
Days before the incident, Hale shared pictures of lunch with both her daughters and her mother. Shanti, had a youthful appearance with apple-round cheeks and bright eyes and did not look much older than her daughters, who were mirror images of their late mother. According to her Facebook profile, Hale was attending Fordham University.
Walker also posted pictures with his daughters at a restaurant with an arcade for children. He is pictured playing a mini basketball arcade game next to his eldest daughter, towering behind her with a bright, white smile. Walker, who had been a professional basketball player for a team in Europe, attended Daemen College in Amherst and Monroe Community College in Rochester.
Daeman spokeswoman Paula Witherell said he attended classes until 2003 while playing for the college basketball team, Wildcats. But he did not graduate from the college, according to his academic records. At Monroe he played center-forward position on the Tribunes’ basketball team under Head Coach Jerry Burns.
“I feel terrible, it’s tragic. He was a nice, average student. He never gave me any problems. I haven’t spoken to him in a long time,” recalled Burns. “He always worked hard and brought a lot of intensity to the game.”
That Saturday morning, the survivor, his 12-year old daughter who dialed 911, was found shot in the head and is currently in critical condition at Long Island Jewish Hospital, police said.
When Walker was found dead at the Lefferts Boulevard extension south of the Belt Parkway, police recovered a .45 caliber firearm from the vehicle, which was registered under his name.
“This morning’s tragedy once again underscores the human toll and horror of domestic violence. Despite the progress that we have made in domestic violence prevention and prosecution, today’s events in southeast Queens show that we cannot relent in our efforts to eliminate the scourge of domestic violence,” Queens District Attorney Richard Brown said the same day.
He pointed out that the latest statistics from the Mayor’s Office to Combat Domestic Violence showed a 41 percent reduction since 2002 in intimate partner homicides.
“In the wake of this tragic event, I call upon the residents of Springfield Gardens to pray and offer support to the families of the victims,” said Councilman Donovan Richards (D-Laurelton) in a statement;. “While gun violence continues to rear its head in our neighborhoods, the passing of these innocent lives is a stark reminder that these weapons have no place in New York City outside of the context of law enforcement.”
Neighbors were confused and shocked by the homicides and the media vans parked outside their homes.
“This is a nice neighborhood. There was network news all over the place,” said an elderly neighbor near the crime scene, who wanted to remain anonymous. “I did not really know them too much. I just saw them driving the kids back and forth from school. That’s all. It’s sad.”
Statistics from the city’s Office on Combating Domestic Violence show that from 2002 to 2012, 168 family-related homicides occurred within the borough of Queens.
Reach Reporter Sadef Ali Kully by e-mail at skull[email protected]local.com or by phone at (718) 260–4546.