This Property Is Condemned

Everyone in the neighborhood knows the Walkers. Most wish they didn't.

In 1996 a domestic-violence dispute broke out between Kenneth and an unnamed juvenile nephew. The police department's calls-for-service records indicate that one of the combatants--it's not clear which one--"has been known to use kitchen knives during arguments."

Michael Walker acknowledges that he's been arrested for assault and domestic violence. Years ago he got into an argument with his sister, Shannon. "I told my sister, 'I'll beat your ass,'" he says. "They arrested me, gave me a domestic-violence assault charge. I didn't assault no one.

"My sister called the police on the littlest thing," he continues. "She's a police-caller, 'cause she knows when the police come, they generally take somebody. She'll hold that over your head."

McBride's problems with the Walker house culminated at a 1996 barbecue he had with his family. He says members of the Crips were outside the Walker house, arguing and flashing their weapons. McBride says he went into the street to confront them. One of the kids pulled a gun, aimed it at McBride's head and squeezed the trigger. Whether the chamber was empty or the gun jammed, McBride doesn't know. He says it took 45 minutes for police to arrive.

"They go to jail, they come out, they go to jail, they come out," he says, recalling his anger and fear over the incident. "It's like a revolving door."

The most recent trouble at the house was the New Year's Eve stabbing of Uncle James by his girlfriend. James refuses to say much about the incident, only that he was asleep when it happened. His nephews complain that the police were more concerned about sending a platoon of squad cars than they were about sending for an ambulance.

Neighbors claim the house remains a den for drugs and gangbangers. Michael Walker says those days are over. He admits the family once owned pit bulls but says they never bred them to fight. There may have been drugs and gang members around, too, he says. But neighbors have nothing to worry about now, he says, and "if we ain't harmin' them, why should they be tryin' to harm us?"

The family also thinks the police are out to get them. "What I'm trying to say is this is harassment," says Donald Keys, the Walkers' brother-in-law. "They always try to check who's in the house. They walk in through the house without a search warrant. They stop me and search me every day."

Keys, a deacon at a Five Points church, says McBride is behind much of the harassment. "He got pull," says Keys. "That's the only reason. They harass us. I'm late for work every day. They put the city on us: 'Fix this and that.'" (Keys also has an arrest record, including an assault rap in Aurora and a drug-possession bust in Denver last May.)

McBride denies that he's used his connections at city hall to go after the Walkers. "I never use that I worked for the mayor on any of this stuff," he says. "I just don't do stuff like that."

"Why would me and the other neighbors harass peaceful neighbors?" McBride continues. "Their history hasn't been that of a peaceful neighbor. When have they had to call the police on me? Have we been selling crack and fighting in the front yard? You just don't decide to harass your neighbors."

"They've been trying to take the house for ten years," Michael Walker fires back. "They ain't got it, they ain't gonna get it. They just trippin'. They can't take the house, 'cause it's ours, bought and paid for."

The house is bought and paid for, although who actually owns it today is uncertain. City records show that the deed to the house is still in Susie Walker's name. The Walkers say the house was willed to them when their mother died, but they are unable to produce evidence of a will or the name or address of an attorney who may have handled the matter.

"We ain't bothered no one," says Michael Walker. "We pay our own bills, regardless of whose name it's under. What does name have to do with anything?"

According to the city treasurer's office, the house has two years of unpaid taxes, for 1995 and 1996; there are liens out for those taxes, as well as for unpaid sanitary sewer and storm-drainage charges.

Michael Walker says that none of the neighbors have ever taken their concerns to them. "We've never had a neighbor complain directly," he says. "Most likely we'd tone it down."

But McBride says attempts to iron things out at this point would be a waste. Weis-Heath says she did go over to the Walkers' house once to distribute fliers for Denver Digs Trees. When one of the Walker girls opened the door, the "fog rolled out so bad I thought the roaches would come out," Weis-Heath says. "The girl was half-naked, high as a kite, cursing. I'm not inclined to go back and have tea."

Last year the city overhauled its nuisance-abatement ordinances, making it easier for citizens to complain to authorities about problem properties. But the extreme measures neighbors sometimes hope for are taken only rarely.

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