Durham, NC Father Who Lost Custody Of Son Threatens Suicide, Gets Shot By Cops

The reason behind why Derek Walker may have pulled a gun on himself and police is as shocking and heartbreaking as his death after he was shot by cops in downtown Durham, North Carolina: the 26-year-old father, worn out from a years-long custody battle with the mother of his son, simply couldn’t fight anymore.

Walker died an hour into a stand-off with police on Tuesday; Cpl. R.C. Swartz shot Walker after, police say, the distraught, suicidal father brandished a gun. Swartz has been put on paid administrative leave.

Some 16 hours before the shooting, Walker posted a Facebook status saying he wanted to die after losing his son in a custody dispute that stretched back to 2007.

“Don’t call me and don’t talk to me because I’m not responding. I hope I die very soon and a fast death because this world I live in is sorry. I can’t take [what] my son’s mother is putting me through. She has filled [my son’s] head up with so much false stuff. He has told me I’m a bad father, I’m not a good dad. I’m ready to die because I have no reason to live right now.”

After seeing his shocking post, friends and family members tried to reach out to Walker to beg him not to hurt himself, but Walker, who worked at a funeral home, would not listen to their pleas. Franklin Hanes, the owner of the Hanes Funeral Service, where Walker worked, said he talked to Walker at about the time of his standoff with police.

“He just said, ‘I want you to bury me in my funeral suit.’” Hanes recalled in an interview with WNCN. “I said, ‘No, because we have two funerals this week and you’ve got to be here to do these funerals. Everybody loves you. People [have] been calling. He listened to me about two minutes but he was crying the whole time—hard. And, he said, ‘I love you.’ And that was it.”

What tears me up about this story is not just that an apparently loving, caring, dedicated Black father is dead and another black boy is going to grow up without a dad, but that two adults grown enough to make a baby together couldn’t be grown enough to figure out how to raise that baby together sans the foolishness and bitterness and anger that comes in nonsensical custody battles. The fight between Walker and his son’s mother, Latasha Alston, was long and ugly (despite that she told WNCN that the two had never fought in court over their son). Court documents, at least a half-inch thick, show accusations of domestic abuse (his), refusal to deliver the boy for court-ordered visitation (hers), accusations that the boy wasn’t being cared for properly by the mother or her babysitter, court-ordered parenting classes for both the mom and dad and, as recently as September 13, accusations that Derek Walker was “acting out” in front of their child during a handover, which, according to the mother, got the boy upset.

Alston insisted to a WNCN reporter that she and Walker “were cool” and that there was no animosity between the two. “That’s why I am shocked. We were fine,” she said.

“He will truly, truly be missed by us,” Latasha Alston said Wednesday. “He was my son’s heart. I’m sorry it happened like this.”

For real? Sorry it happened “like this”?

I mean I get it: the last thing sis wants to do is shoulder the blame for what happened to the father of her son (Walker’s family and friends place blame squarely on the police department response that led to the man’s shooting death), but come on: who’s here for the wholesale dismissal of a father’s feelings—the intense love he has—for his children? Or how court custody battles, Usher and Dwyane Wade notwithstanding, almost always favor the mother at the expense of the father and his desire to be an integral part of his children’s life in a way that extends beyond every other weekend and the occasional holiday? I mean, I’m a mother, and I’d just as soon have my heart ripped from my warm body while I watched than have my children taken from me. But don’t we all think it’s high time that we understood that fathers can and do feel the same way? And that maybe, just maybe, rather than fighting over the kids, we would bode much better to embrace letting go of our anger and bitterness toward our exes and, for the sake of our babies, learn how to get along and share the child? After all, it takes the passion, the blood, the bodies, the hearts of two to create a baby. This does not change just because we’re mad and can’t get along today.

My heart aches for Walker and especially for his son, who now must go through life without a daddy, but also knowing that his father was killed, in part, because his mom and dad couldn’t see fit to let their love for their child outweigh the ugliness they reserved for one another.

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Denene Millner

Mom. NY Times bestselling author. Pop culture ninja. Unapologetic lover of shoes, bacon and babies. Nice with the verbs. Founder of the top black parenting website, MyBrownBaby.


  1. This story was so emotional for me. I grew up in Durham, NC and have seen bitter custody battles first hand. We have to find a way to work together for life’s sake. Music videos and other nonsense makes it popular for women to use their children as pawns. Of course, there are two sides to every story, but put selfishness aside and get counseling, mediation, etc. We (our community and families) must find a better way to share custody when children are involved, they are learning from our relationships.

  2. Thanks for sharing.

    I have two girls, and it makes me angry, sad, and frustrated JUST TO ATTEMPT TO IMAGINE not being able to see my girls EVERYDAY due to a petty custody battle if my wife and I ever “fell out of love” with each other.

    Lord only knows what emotions Derek Walker (and other dads) felt as the result of a real-life custody battle than leaves them without access to their kids regularly.

    Not to take anything away from the single mothers dealing with back-breaking family situations as a result of a man who would rather wait in line to purchase that new Grand Theft Auto over making sure the kids he fathered have backpacks and other supplies for school.

    …But can we please stop ignoring the fathers who would rather die [figuratively…and now literally] than deal with the favortism that goes hand in hand with custody battles?

  3. I went through a similar situation with my son’s mom here in Raleigh just recently….favoritism towards the mother is something that needs to be brought to national attention. My situation could have had the same outcome as this..

    • June 13 there is a huge rally worldwide where people will be marching their capital’s in support of equal parenting for fathers.

  4. I knew this young man. He was the sweetest and loving person you would ever meet. His sons mother is going to pay for her actions as well. He will be truly missed and remembered always and forever.

  5. THank you for sharing this and pointing out that one’s love for a child should ALWAYS outweigh your bitterness and hate for your ex….even after all my family has gone through in alienating me, my current wife and 3 little sisters from our 15 year old daughter, I would never do this to her. Kids need both parents. This woman should be ashamed.

    • Hope you are well and I’m faced with very similar circumstances. It is frightening. It is really hard to think they have shame. I could never do this to my children – call it a weakness on my part and despite my suffering – they can never strip me of what this mother lacks.

  6. Thank Your for posting this story. I live in North Carolina and have seen first hand how manipulating some women can be in the court system. I have been with my sons father for 8 years and he has two girls from a previous relationship. He loves his children and he is an outstanding father but I have witness the mother drag him back and forth to court and has been to civil court from her damaging our personal property and they always seem to side with the women who is scorned but come on after a period of time women we must let that man go and co parent our children. I love his girls but the blame is being put on me for having a child be him. I have seen him distraught and ready to give up. We pray and leave it to god. Who do these men go to for help besides trying to spend their entire life savings on the legal system to fail good fathers. I will pray for Mr Walkers Family and pray for the devil to leave that woman and god to bless the child. This story has my sons father praying that it would never come to this for him and as long as I am around I will not allow a broken women to tear a good father apart.

  7. This tragic event is brought to light in part because of the police involvement. How many men who are in very similar circumstances die without a bang? I’m quite aware that it by no means is reflected in the media. Yes, she wins at all cost with the self sustaining lie that mothers use today it just sickens me to no end. It is rare to find comments such as the many who speak to the obvious truth.

    Merry XMas

  8. Captain Cool

    If a mother or father lacks the decency to let the other parent be a parent even though they aren’t bringing harm to their child, then that person is a poor excuse for a parent. This mom will get what she deserves one day, especially when her son finds out what drove his father to his death.

    She didn’t even seem remorseful, she said she wasn’t the blame and doesn’t see why should would deserve to be.

  9. Alienation is happening to both parents. Dads and moms are losing their kids in despicable custody battles fueled with lies and manipulation. The targeted parent and children are the ones suffering yet none of the “professionals” are listening. All about the money my friends.

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