NEW YORK – In the predawn darkness, Christina Walker, 12, lifted herself off her blood-soaked bedroom floor and went to the phone. Three generations of her family – her 7-year-old sister, her mother and her grandmother – lay nearby, fatally shot in the head by her father, the authorities said.
Christina had been shot in the head, too. Her speech was muddled, her words a bit difficult to make out, according to Robert K. Boyce, the chief of detectives for the New York Police Department. But the girl, who likes to wear turquoise eyeliner and tiaras, pressed on, dialing 911 and even trudging downstairs to pull the door open for police officers.
In a storm of violence in Queens early Saturday, Jonathon Walker – who, according to New York City Police detectives previously lived in Buffalo – killed his younger daughter, Kayla, along with the girls’ mother, Shantai Hale, 31, and Hale’s mother, Viola Warren, 62, the authorities said. Walker, 34, then drove to a desolate area 6 miles away, where he fatally shot himself.
Christina, the only survivor, was taken to Long Island Jewish Medical Center, where she was in critical but stable condition, the police said.
The shooting started shortly after Walker returned home at 5:38 a.m. He moved between the upstairs bedrooms and shot each of the four victims with a .45-caliber gun, the police said.
A nightclub bouncer and security guard, Walker then drove his silver GMC Acadia from the two-family home in the Brookville neighborhood near Kennedy Airport, where all five lived, to a remote area on Lefferts Boulevard, just south of the Belt Parkway, the police said. Sitting in the car and using the same gun, he shot himself in the head, the police said.
Boyce said at a briefing that Walker had called his brother in Las Vegas after shooting his family and told him: “What I did, I cannot come back from.”
The killings turned a quiet dead-end block into a scene of despair on a gray Saturday morning, as relatives stepped through a layer of slush and ducked under caution tape. They sobbed into the arms of Wendell Warren, 53, whose oldest sister was Viola Warren.
“We will be baffled for years to come,” he said softly.
Joseph Simmons, 34, said Hale, his cousin, had recently grown despondent about her relationship with Walker, a former professional basketball player in Europe who stood 6ø feet tall. Hale had dropped out of high school after getting pregnant with Christina, he said, and lived for years with Walker without marrying.
But recently she realized the relationship was crumbling, posting spiritual sentiments on social media, Simmons said.
“He’s just not what he appeared to be,” Simmons said of Walker.
Glen Roy Hibbert, 49, who lives two houses from the Walker family, said he did not understand the violence. He recalled often seeing Walker outside with his daughters, and sometimes waving to him. Hibbert even invited him to a barbecue.
“He always seemed happy,” Hibbert said.
Mark Kippins, 13, another neighbor, remembered riding his bicycle alongside Christina and Kayla as their families mingled on the sidewalk. Speaking by phone, he said of Christina, “She was a cool person.”