04/29/2006

Concern for 'a great officer'

Copyright 2006 Plain Dealer Publishing Co.

By MICHAEL O'MALLEY
Plain Dealer

CLEVELAND, Ohio — Cleveland Patrolman Steve Walker, hospitalized in intensive care with a 9mm bullet lodged in his back, is a top-notch officer with a good service record, his superiors say. His wife says he's "a big teddy bear."

Bernice Walker, keeping vigil at her husband's bedside, shied away from reporters at MetroHealth Medical Center on Thursday, but more than a dozen officers, including Police Chief Michael McGrath, gathered to display their support for their injured comrade.

"I know him personally," McGrath told a news conference outside the hospital. "He's been a great officer."

Walker, 52, the father of two grown daughters, was shot in the chest by Kenneth Calloway, 38, of Cleveland, on Thursday at Cleveland Hopkins International Airport. Walker never lost consciousness as doctors stabilized him with blood transfusions and painkillers.

Dr. Charles Yowler, head of Metro's trauma division, said there was no immediate plan to remove the bullet.

In most chest-area shootings, Yowler said, bullets are not removed unless bleeding is severe.

He said Walker lost a lot of blood and suffered lung damage and broken ribs from the wound. By late Thursday the bleeding had stopped, said Yowler, but a blood clot formed on Walker's lung.

Doctors were planning to suck out the clot today by inserting a tube through his chest. Yowler said he is hopeful Walker won't have to be cut open.

"He's doing very well considering what happened to him," Yowler said. "He's not in a lot of pain. If everything goes well, he'll be out of the hospital in five to seven days."

Walker was raised in Alabama and moved to Cleveland when he was 19. He graduated from Cuyahoga Community College and has been on the police force for 18 years. He has been on the airport beat for 10 years.

Records show he has never used deadly force or fired his gun while on duty. Since 2000, he has made six felony arrests and eight misdemeanor arrests, according to records.

Recent department evaluations of Walker, badge No. 605, show mostly superior ratings. He received written praise from the department for helping Parma police arrest a sex-crime suspect at the airport and for catching a gunman who broke into a woman's home and threatened to kill her.

The Walkers, who have been married 21 years, have two daughters: Stephanie, 26, of Nashville, Tenn., and Sanetta, 30, of Cleveland. Stephanie, trying to get to her father's bedside, was unable to find a flight out of Nashville before today, so Tom Ganley, owner of the Ganley automobile dealerships, sent his private jet Thursday to pick her up. The police union went to Ganley for help, and he offered the use of his plane.

Through a hospital spokeswoman, Bernice Walker described her husband as "very warm, outgoing and a big teddy bear."

"My daughters and I would sincerely like to thank the community for its outpouring of concern, interest and support regarding my husband's well-being," she said in a statement released through the hospital. "Your calls and prayers are greatly appreciated." 

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