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Again, a stray bullet kills

Days after a teen dies, a mother of four is hit in her living room.

By ABHI RAGHUNATHAN
Published April 6, 2007


ST. PETERSBURG - For the second time in 11 days, a bystander was killed in the Harbordale neighborhood in Midtown.

Tracey Walker, a 40-year-old single mother of four, was in the living room of her home at 2635 Sixth St. S on Wednesday night. Her son Ahmad, 20, was hanging out in front with a couple of friends around 11:45 p.m. when someone walked up and began firing with a handgun, police said.

The gunman missed Ahmad and his buddies. But one bullet flew into the living room and hit Walker in the head.

"It's senseless," said Adam Butler, 34, Walker's cousin. "It's sad when a woman can't be at peace in her home."

The shooting comes after the March 24 death of 15-year-old Deandre "Squirrel" Brown, who was shot while talking to friends in the 2200 block of Highland Street S, just four blocks from Walker's home.

Police arrested two young men in connection with Brown's killing, saying the youths were out for revenge after a party at Wildwood Recreation Center disintegrated into fights. Brown didn't go to that party, though some of his friends did.

Several teenagers later said that tensions have been rising between Childs Park kids and Harbordale kids.

Detective Karl Sauer, the lead investigator into Walker's death, said the two shootings did not appear to be related. He said it was still unclear why someone opened fire outside the Walker home. At least seven bullet holes now mark the door and front of the home.

"It's just unfortunate," Sauer said.

City Council member Earnest Williams, whose district includes Harbordale, said he wanted to know if the shootings were related to drug or gang activity. He called the neighborhood "transitioning."

"It's a decent neighborhood," Williams said. "But one murder is too many. That's concerning."

Harbordale is bordered by 22nd and 30th avenues S and Fourth and Ninth streets. It is a neighborhood of modest, bungalow-style homes, many of which were built in the 1920s and 1930s. Although the area has had its share of crime in recent years, the two back-to-back killings stand out.

On Thursday morning, a large group of family and friends gathered to comfort Walker's children, all in their late teens or early 20s.

Several people broke down sobbing as they opened the door sprayed with bullet holes and walked inside.

"I don't feel too good right now," said her son, Tory Walker, 18.

Her other two children are Tory's twin sister, Lori, and 21- year-old Jamel.

Walker grew up in the Jordan Park projects, graduated from Dixie Hollins High School and relied on the bus to get to her job in the cafeteria of a nursing home, Butler said.

She moved into the Sixth Street house about seven years ago, looking for a place where she could pay the rent with her minimum-wage job.

"It's not like she wanted to live here," said Butler, standing in front of the gray and white house. "But she was a single mom with four kids."

In the neighborhood, Walker was known for her cooking. She invited friends and family over for soul food like fried chicken, gizzards, collard greens and black-eyed peas.

But she was also protective. She kept her doors locked and her children on a tight leash, but some still got into trouble.

Patrice Nash, 18, her daughter's friend, said Walker's children didn't get to go out much until they turned 18.

"She wouldn't let them go anywhere," Nash said.

Like others in the neighborhood, Nash said she didn't know why someone might target Walker's house. But she is certain that no one would intend to shoot her.

"They weren't after her," she said. "I know they weren't after her because Ms. Tracey didn't bother nobody."

Times researcher Angie Drobnic Holan and Aaron Sharockman contributed to this report. Abhi Raghunathan can be reached at araghunathan@sptimes.com or 727 893-8472.