This I Believe

Stacey - Casa Grande, Arizona
Entered on September 19, 2008
Age Group: 18 - 30

How would you fell if you had to relive a family member’s death every six months? On November 30, 1979 my grandfather John C. Walker was shot and killed in the line of duty during an undercover drug bust. He was killed by a man named Genaro Celaya. He was sentenced to life or so we thought. I believe that families should not have to relieve a family member’s death over and over again.

They had two trials for his murder each of them were a couple months long. There were two different sets of juries each time. He was sentenced to the same verdict every time. The verdict was a first degree felony murder and armed robbery. The judge sentenced him to life with possible parol after 25 years. During the two trials my family had to have bodyguards during and at all times no one was allowed at the house. They had half of the police force guarding them when they went to court, and several around the house and when they went any where.

Genaro Celaya was supposed to be selling cocaine but he didn’t have any. He just wanted the money. When my grandfather went to do the deal he gave Celaya the bag with the money and Celaya went to his car to get the drugs and came back and gave my grandfather a bag that was suppose to have the drugs but when he put his hands in it there were no drug’s just old shoes. My grandfather yelled, it’s a bust. Then Celaya pulled out a gun and shot my grandfather point blank range. Then he took off and tried to get away but the other officers stopped him but they couldn’t shoot him because too many officers were around and the possibility that another officer would be shot was not worth it.

After 25 hard years had gone by for my family and the death of my grandmother, we get a letter stating that his second parol hearing was coming up. That meant we were never notified of the first parol hearing and were grateful to know he did not get out. Now if this had happened today then he would have been sentenced to life with no parole. However, due to other laws he cannot be retro active. So the verdict he was given has to stay the same. However if we do not go to the trial then he has a greater chance of getting out. So we must go every time to insure, he does not get out.

The first time I went to a parol hearing we walked into the court house and sat down, the judges walked in at sat down and said “is everyone present.” Then they asked Genaro Celaya to explain why he did this and why he thinks he should get out on parole. According to my mother it was always a different story she said “ soon you will see that for yourself”. But his excuse was he was young and stupid. Everyone is young and stupid but you don’t see them killing people for money. Then the judges gave my family the chance to speak that has to be one of the hardest things I have ever had to listen to and watch as my mother talks about my grandfather. My aunt got up to talk and said that not only is November 30 the day my grandfather was shot it was her birthday, yes the day he died happened to be her 18th birthday. So after everyone talked the judges asked Genaro Celaya why he did it all he had to say was “if he had known he was a cop he would not have shot him” so if it had been some regular person he would have had no problem shooting him then. After that the judges got up and walked out, they then came back in and gave their decision his parole was denied. The judges got up and said we will see you again in six months.

So you would think that going to court every six months, and going thru November 30 would be all we went thru right, wrong we also have to go to a police memorial once a year it is a service where they honor family members who have lost a loved one in the line of duty. During one of the memorials a news channel asked to interview me that may have been one of the toughest things for me to do, having to answer her questions was hard. The one question that sticks out to me to this day is “if you have never met your grandfather why is it hard for you to talk about him” it was very hard for me to explain to her why I was so emotional about it. We also go to police rodeos and my family talks about him all the time it’s like I got to know him thru my mom and aunt and grandmother. There is a Rodeo Assoc. That my grandfather put together and is still going on today. The finals for the year is called the Johnny Walker Memorial Rodeo and we have to go every year to go out into the middle of the arena and be recognized. It is a wonderful feeling to know that a lot of people still remember my grandfather.

To watch how this affects my family has made me realize that we are a strong family because of it. But I still believe that families should not have to relieve a family member’s death over and over again. The court system is good in so many ways except for family members of the slain officer or anyone that is killed. We are the victims but we have no rights when it comes to these so called the criminals have all the rights in the world. They aren’t law-abiding citizens like us but when they become criminals they have all the rights and we have to sit back and watch. It just isn’t fair at all.