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2017 Crime Review: A possible murder more than three years in the making

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On May 31, 2014, gunshots rang out on North Pitt Street in Carlisle, leaving one man lying in the street injured.

Carlisle resident James Felix Walker was shot multiple times and had to be rushed to Penn State Health Milton S. Hershey Medical Center. Forty-seven year old Walker survived the injury for more than three years, but died in September.

A forensic pathologist determined Walker’s death was the result of complications from the bullet wound he suffered nearly four years earlier, and has been ruled a homicide, according to Cumberland County Coroner Charley Hall.

Police are now investigating his death as a possible murder.

“(Walker) had sustained a lot of serious injuries,” Carlisle Police Sgt. David Miller said. “Although they were able to save his life, (he died from) complications from his original injury. ... That would make it a homicide.”

Around 7:50 p.m. the day Walker was shot, police responded to the 400 block of North Pitt Street where they found Walker lying on the road, bleeding from multiple gunshot wounds.

Witnesses said two men had shot at Walker, and one, who a witness identified as “Warren,” had fled the scene but dropped a hat, a cellphone and other items as he ran, according to an affidavit of probable cause filed by Carlisle Police.

Witnesses said “Warren” was carrying a silver handgun as he fled, and 9 mm shell casings were found throughout the crime scene, police said. The items were later identified as belonging to Warren Genell Bennett II, 31, of Carlisle.

On July 4, 2014, Bennett was charged with attempted murder in the first degree, felony aggravated assault, possession of a firearm by a prohibited person, firearm not to be carried without a license and misdemeanor simple assault, according to court records. An additional charge of misdemeanor reckless endangerment was added later.

Bennett was arrested that same day after attempting to flee police. He was found hiding in a bush in the backyard of a home near the intersection of East Penn and North Hanover streets, according to testimony provided at Bennett’s preliminary hearing.

He was not found in possession of a gun at the time of his arrest, police said. However, a 9 mm handgun was found four days later in the backyard of the home where Bennett was found hiding, and it was turned over to police, according to police.

Case dissolves

The case against Bennett quickly derailed after his arrest.

Miller said Walker was uncooperative and refused to identify the person who shot him.

The charges against Bennett were withdrawn, according to court records.

“We developed a suspect,” Miller said. “Walker lived. He knew exactly who shot him because they were standing, exchanging gunfire in the street. ... We thought we had a good case, but Walker refused to cooperate.”

Bennett maintained his innocence throughout the court process.

“From our perspective, Warren has maintained his innocence throughout, and we have no doubt the reason the charges were dropped is because he didn’t do it,” Bennett’s attorney, Timothy Barrouk, told The Sentinel in 2014.

The second possible shooter was described as a tall, black man with “dreadlock-style hair,” according to police.

It would likely take new evidence, or eyewitness testimony, to allow police to move the case forward, Miller said.

“Without the cooperation (from Walker), without the witness testimony, we’re left with nothing,” he said.

Miller said it is understandable that people may be afraid to come forward. He noted that this shooting happened in the middle of the street while it was still light outside. He also said it was common for people not to want to get involved and let others speak up.

However, in this case, police need more, Miller said.

Without that help, Walker’s alleged killer, or killers, will likely remain free.

“There’s no easy answer to fixing that except having people look themselves in the mirror and say ‘Hey, we can’t let this stuff go in our country and our community,’” Miller said. “Somebody needs to step up and help out.”

Anyone with information about the shooting that led to Walker’s death is asked to contact Carlisle Police at 717-240-6660. Tips can also be submitted online through the department’s CrimeWatch page, cumberland.crimewatchpa.com/carlislepd.

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CrimeWatch

Carlisle Police CrimeWatch

More information about how the decision was made to deem Walker’s death a homicide was not available. Hall said he could not release the name of the forensic pathologist because of legal and ethical concerns about releasing medical information.

It is uncommon for a death several years after an injury to be tied directly to that injury and spur a possible murder investigation, but it is not unheard of.

In 2014, James Brady, the former press secretary to President Ronald Reagan, died more than 30 years after he was shot during a failed assassination attempt on Reagan’s life by John Hinkley Jr. Brady’s death was determined to be a result of complications of the gunshot wound he suffered during the assassination attempt, and his death was deemed a homicide.

Hinkley had been found not guilty by reason of insanity in 1982 and was not charged in connection to Brady’s death.

“There’s no easy answer to fixing that except having people look themselves in the mirror and say ‘Hey, we can’t let this stuff go in our country and our community. Somebody needs to step up and help out.” —Carlisle Police Sgt. David Miller

Email Joshua Vaughn at jvaughn@cumberlink.com. Follow him on Twitter at @Sentinel_Vaughn.

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Cops & Courts Reporter

Crime & Courts Reporter at The Sentinel.

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