By Alan Prendergast
By Michael Roberts
By Michael Roberts
By Amber Taufen
By Patricia Calhoun
By William Breathes
By Michael Roberts
By Melanie Asmar
The family members, though, say they've cleaned up their act and aren't going anywhere. "This is a holy house," says Michael Walker's brother Kenneth, a 35-year-old carpenter who fails to mention his own lengthy arrest record, which dates back to 1984 and includes convictions for felony larceny and misdemeanor assault. "This is a house of God. This here's a blessed house. I ain't goin' nowhere. And they can't get me off the block. I'm'a be here."
Many neighbors who complain about the Walkers haven't been inside their house recently. The floors are in poor shape and the place looks in need of work, but the furnishings are standard fare. There's a piano, and there are drapes on the windows. A large TV displays the networks' evening programming.
The Walkers are friendly enough to a guest--with the brief exception of Uncle James, who flies into a rage at one point and hits a visitor on the head with an empty cranberry-juice jug. But they are acutely tired of having to defend themselves. Family members or friends tend to drop by regularly, and people constantly seem to emerge from the second floor or the basement. Of the fourteen Walker siblings, two, Michael and Kenneth, are now living in the house, along with their Uncle James, a nephew and a brother-in-law. Some of the other brothers and sisters live in California. Two are dead. Michael Walker says he doesn't know about the rest.
The Walkers' parents, Tyler and Susie, came to Denver sometime in the 1950s, say relatives. The couple married while they were teenagers. Tyler, an outgoing motorcycle rider, worked at Martin Marietta and as a mechanic; the quiet Susie, who stood just 5-1 and weighed 99 pounds, was a homemaker. Her brother, James, says Susie was a "very good cook, good seamstress, beautician--the total package in a woman."
The family lived for a while on Columbine Street, then moved into the house on Humboldt in 1969. They say the house was built that year by Manual High School as part of a school project.
Michael Walker says the police were a friendly presence back then, because Susie was a well-liked fixture of the community. "When their parents were alive, these things didn't happen," notes block-watch captain Lockhart. But even from the beginning, says Kenneth Walker, the family didn't feel welcome. Tyler and Susie already had a baseball team's worth of children by the time they moved to Humboldt Street, he says, and the older neighbors "didn't want us on the block. They didn't want to be irritated by nine kids."
Conflict with police came early enough. Kenneth says that as a boy, he was stopped by officers for urinating in an alley. He ran home and hid in the basement. He says nine cops showed up, demanding that his bewildered mother, who thought he was in school, present her son.
In 1981, at the age of 46, Tyler Walker was stabbed to death in Curtis Park. Nobody was ever arrested, though some in the neighborhood suspect that Tyler's death was drug-related. Michael and Kenneth say they'll take care of the culprit if they ever find him. "I'd kill 'em, go to jail and do my time," says Michael.
After Tyler died, the family was never the same. "When Tyler was livin', those kids better not be doin' nothin," says Crayton Jones, who runs the C&B Cleaners in Five Points. "He ran that house with an iron fist."
Tyler left his family "fixed up pretty well," says Jones. But after Susie died six years later, the home began to deteriorate. The kids, many of them adults by then, had to fend for themselves. The house was soon overrun with their kids and with troublesome friends. Even some of the Walker girls got into trouble; three of the sisters have lengthy arrest records in Denver.
Marcus Grossenbach, who rented a house behind the Walkers for about six months in the early 1990s, says that soon after he moved in, one of the Walker sisters approached him and his then-girlfriend about buying and using crack. (The girlfriend, who asks not to be identified, confirms the account.)
Grossenbach says the experience tainted his whole perception of the family. But, he adds, "I'm not gonna fault the Walkers. I had the feeling they were doing the best they could to keep a roof over their head. But there was nothing they wouldn't do--lie, cheat or steal--to keep it. They were some of the better liars you'd run into."
Lockhart says the family bred up to nine pit bulls at the house in the 1980s. One of the dogs, she recalls, once killed a German shepherd. "Fightin', police bein' there all the time," she recalls. "Neighbors shouldn't have to put up with it. You pay taxes, you work to keep your house, and they don't, and nothing happens to them."
One complainant called in 1993 to say that gang members were holding her sister at the Walker house. In March 1995 someone was shot with a shotgun; the shooter escaped on foot, and an ambulance was called to take away the victim. A neighbor called in August 1995 complaining that people were fighting and throwing bottles; three days later she called again, this time because people were fighting in the middle of the street with knives. A call the following November indicated that someone had been hit in the head with a wrench. According to police-department records, the victim "had been there bleeding (outside) for almost two hours."