Twice he has walked into a business with gun drawn, solo, to face with a man with a gun. Twice he walked out with a man in handcuffs. One man was trying to rob the business. The other was involved in a domestic dispute. Both situations could have ended much differently for Tim Walker and the people involved.
Both have one other thing in common – Walker happened to be in the right place at the right time. Walker, 41, is a 17-year veteran patrolman for the Knoxville Police Department (KPD), a native of a very violent city north of us – Chicago.
And twice he has been honored as KPD’s Officer of the Month – one for March 1, 2021, when he stopped a robbery in progress at Buddy’s Bar-B-Q, 8402 Kingston Pike.
His second monthly recognition was shared with Officer Jason Lay for February 2021. They were singled out for their response to a 10-year-old boy experiencing what was termed “an emotional crisis.” What began as a very dicey situation ended with the little guy OK and reunited with his parents. We’ll get back to this one later – but it’s a lesson in sensitivity, communication and compassion from two patrolmen who also are fathers.
Walker came to Knoxville in 2003 on vacation to visit an old friend. He fell in love with Knoxville and East Tennessee. Chicago was history. Today, he and his wife have two young daughters and his life and career are here.
He worked two jobs before making the move to the KPD. He is a student in martial arts and met a KPD officer at a martial arts gym. After talking, Walker agreed to go on a ride-along and was hooked.
“I’d always thought about police work. It offers you the structure and discipline of martial arts, it’s fast paced and you get the bad guys and I like that,” he said. “I grew up hating bullies and I like having the opportunity to be a line of defense between the citizens and the bad guys.”
Let’s address the attempted robbery at Buddy’s. Walker was about to go work out at Gracie Barra, a Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu gym across the street from the Buddy’s location.
“I was standing behind my patrol car taking my gun belt off when the call came in, a robbery in progress with the man pointing the gun at the manager,” he says. “It took me maybe 30 seconds to get there and the people outside said the guy was still inside and had a gun.
“I saw him through the window at the cash register. I went in and he was slow to comply with my commands. He finally did. He said ‘This is not me. I’m doing this for my baby.’ He’d been drinking and had prior felonies. He gave up and it was all over in about a minute.”
The man was charged with aggravated robbery, possession of a weapon by a convicted felon, possession of a weapon while intoxicated and simple possession.
On Saturday, Feb. 26, 2022, Walker was on his way to roll call from his East Knox County home. It was around 5 p.m. and he stopped at the BP Gas Store at 7401 Strawberry Plains Pike. “That’s where I always get my coffee on the way to work,” he said. As he pulled into the parking lot a woman yelled at him and said a man was inside firing a gun.
“I parked close to the door and saw him through the window with his weapon drawn.”
There were four people still inside the store. Walker quickly walked in, told him to drop the gun and the man did. No one was injured. “It was related to a domestic situation with an employee he was looking for and it could have ended badly. Thankfully it didn’t.”
Again – he was at the right place at the right time.
And a year earlier on the same date – Feb. 26 – a call came across about a 10-year-old child climbing the carport awning of the Second United Methodist Church on Western Avenue. An update shortly after the initial report indicated the child had made it to the roof of the awning.
“When I got there the kid was climbing a tall fence and I managed to get him down and calm him down. It was obvious he was really having a crisis of some kind,” Walker said. “He was going through something bad and we didn’t know what was wrong. He was crying and screaming a lot.”
This ended up being a four-to-five-hour call. During those hours, Walker and Lay, through continued conversations, learned the child was interested in police officers and they guided the conversation in that direction. That led to Walker letting the kid ride in the front seat of his cruiser, turn on the blue lights and the siren. And it helped them get to know the kid.
“He was actually a pretty amazing little guy, interested in our technology. He was a good kid in a bad place emotionally and I’m glad we were there for him,” Walker said. “I think it helped that Jason and I are both fathers, too.”
They had called for an ambulance to take the boy to East Tennessee Children’s Hospital to make sure he was OK, but then decided to take him in the KPD car. Both officers were working the tail end of their shifts but decided to stay with the boy until his parents got to the hospital. While they waited, they went to McDonald’s on Cumberland Avenue for some food and ice cream.
During the Officer of the Month ceremony, Police Chief Eve Thomas mentioned the “compassionate, thoughtful and empathetic response to a child in need” by Walker and Lay.
“There are a lot of our officers out there working who do things like this every day but no one hears much about it,” Walker said.
Tom King has served at newspapers in Georgia, Tennessee, Texas and California and was the editor of two newspapers. Suggest future stories at firstname.lastname@example.org or call him at 865-659-3562.