“Why Did This Happen?”: Garrett Walker’s Family Attorney Provides Update in Case
A local attorney representing the family of Garrett Walker addressed members of the media Wednesday afternoon to provide an update in the ongoing investigation after he was found dead in the Black Warrior River Tuesday evening.
Josh Hayes, a lawyer with Prince Glover Hayes, started off with a statement from Walker's parents, expressing their gratitude for the outpouring of support from the Tuscaloosa community. They specifically mentioned Mayor Walt Maddox, Tuscaloosa Police Chief Brent Blankley, Tuscaloosa Fire Rescue Chief Randy Smith, Battalion Chief Kevin Burgess, and the University of Alabama.
According to Hayes, the University helped to provide food and lodging for Walker's family during the search, and the Division of Student Life brought out several folding chairs and tarps for Walker's friends, fraternity brothers and family as they waited by the river.
Walker was first reported missing at approximately 1:15 a.m. Sunday Morning, November 7. He was last seen leaving The Gray Lady, a bar on Greensboro Avenue. The next morning, officers recovered his phone and an article of his clothing near the old Bama Belle dock along the Black Warrior River.
In addition to rescue crews comprised of TPD and TFR officials, the Tallapoosa County EMA dive team was brought in to assist with specialized sonar equipment and personnel.
Walker's body was recovered around 4:00 p.m. Tuesday from the river after two days of continuous searching.
"Yesterday was unlike anything I've ever seen, just the sheer heartbreak from the parents laid bare for the world to see," he said. "Literally hundreds of students gathered for days on end speaks a lot to our community."
WHAT COMES NEXT?
At this time, the investigation into the events of that Sunday evening is still ongoing. Hayes urged anyone with information to come forward. He said that his firm has asked the surveillance footage of Walker leaving The Gray Lady be preserved, calling it a "vitally important" piece of evidence.
"The family is grieving, following this devastating loss," Hayes said. "They are asking the same questions the police investigators are asking: what happened, and why did this happen?"
As for what's next in the investigation, Hayes said autopsy results are pending, and could take a long time before anything is made definitive. He was not at liberty to say whether Walker was alone at the river at the time of his disappearance, who reported him missing, or where exactly investigators found his body. He instead said those answers would need to come from the police.
However, Hayes promised to provide updates as needed as the investigation continues.
At this time, there is no intent to begin a lawsuit as a result of Walker's death.
"We'll see where the facts lead us on that. It's way too early to be jumping to any speculation like that. We'll see where the evidence leads, where the witnesses lead," Hayes said. "Certainly, anybody who is responsible for Garrett's death, we will seek to hold them accountable."
REMEMBERING GARRETT WALKER
Walker's family left Tuscaloosa Wednesday morning to return home to Maryland. They brought many of their son's belongings with them, including his dog and his Jeep.
Funeral arrangements are still being made, but Hayes said the service will be held at Sauffer Funeral Home in Mt. Airy, Maryland.
Walker's parents launched a GoFundMe to establish a reward for anyone with information that would lead to Garrett's safe return, which as of publishing is approaching $50,000. Since the reward is no longer required, the family is repurposing the funds to cover funeral expenses, and to establish what will be the Garrett Walker Memorial Scholarship.
His family is still deciding whether this will be given to a student at UA, or rather to a school closer to his home.
Hayes said that although he did not know Walker personally, he was very impressed with what he was able to accomplish in his life. At 20 years old, he was an accomplished pilot, following in his grandfather's footsteps to study Aerospace Engineering.
He was his father's firstborn, and had a talent for baseball. Hayes said he had several opportunities to play the sport in college, but chose to focus on his academics.
"This is something unimaginable this family's dealing with," he said. "He was well on his way to making a mark on this world... Garrett lived a lot of life in his 20 years, and we do not want him remembered for the way he died. We want him remembered for the way he lived.
Hayes passed along a message from Walker's family to the Tuscaloosa community:
"Take care of each other. Take advantage of the counseling sessions being offered by the University. And continue to honor Garrett's legacy by living each day to its fullest and being kind to those in need."