"Hate will never bring my son back," Leroy Walker told CNN of his son Joseph Walker
The father of Joseph Walker, the 56-year-old Maine bar manager, who was killed during Wednesday's mass shooting in Lewiston, has spoken out following his son's tragic death, saying that he "can't hate" the man who killed his son.
During an emotional interview with CNN on Friday, Leroy Walker, a city counselor in Auburn, Maine, shared that he's "very proud" of his son, who tried to stop the gunman at Schemengees Bar and Grille Restaurant before being shot and killed.
"[He was] loved by many, loved by myself. And he would love back to everybody. So I know he would do such a thing to try to save lives and not let somebody hurt the people that he loved," Leroy told CNN.
Joseph, or Joey as his father calls him, was killed alongside 17 others Wednesday night during the shooting, which took place at both the restaurant and at Just-in-Time Recreation, which is located four miles away. Suspect Robert Card, 40, was later found dead on Friday, per Lewiston Police Chief David St. Pierre. Maine Commissioner of Public Safety Michael Sauschuck said that Card died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound. The mass shooting also injured 13 people.
During the CNN interview, anchor Poppy Harlow referred to a comment Leroy had previously made about not hating the man who had killed his son. Earlier this week, Leroy had told Scripps News, of the man who killed his son: “I don’t hate this guy at all. This guy wasn’t born to do what he did. It’s something wrong."
Harlow then asked Leroy how he was able to feel that way despite his own grief.
"You have to put that part of it, you have to put it out of your mind," Leroy said. "You have to let the law do whatever needs to be done. If this person was at the time in his right mind, I believe he would've been a loving person just like we are. There's something that went wrong. And I just can't hate him."
Leroy, who became emotional during the interview, added that, ultimately, he "can't hate this person" and that he had been "taught different than that. I hope anyways."
"I believe in the law and I have to feel that way," he said. "You can't run around this world hating people. If you do, these kind of things will happen more and more."
Through tears, Leroy explained that hatred "drives you crazy" and means "you're going to hurt other people." As he explained to CNN, he doesn't "want anyone to hurt me, and I don't want to hurt anyone."
"And I'm sure this man, whatever happened to his mind, I'm sure he wasn't born to be a killer," Leroy said. "And he's got, I'm sure, a father and a mother that would have never believed this would've happened with him. So all I can say is, I'm sorry that it's happened to all of us, And I'm sorry what may happen to him. And God will prevail."
"Hate will never bring my son back," he added.
Harlow noted that Leroy had previously lost his daughter in a car accident 25 years ago, and praised his "remarkable" ability to "still have such faith and such love in your heart."
Leroy previously spoke with Lester Holt of NBC Nightly News about his son, who he called "a great, great son, a loving husband." Joseph Walker also had two grandchildren, a stepson, and "thousands of people who loved him," his father shared.
A GoFundMe has been created for Joseph's family, and as of Saturday morning, it has raised over $25,000 of an initial $20,000 goal.
Maine Gov. Janet Mills shared the news of suspect Robert Card's death on Friday during a press release, where she expressed her "profound gratitude for their unwavering bravery and determination and fortitude."
"I breathe a sigh of relief knowing that Robert Card is no longer a threat to anyone," Mills said. “Now is a time to heal.”
"Tonight the city of Lewiston and the state of Maine begin to move forward on what will be a long and difficult road to healing," she added.
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