Joseph Walker loved his job. Walker's father said his son was very passionate about managing Schemengees Bar & Grille in Lewiston, Maine.
“You couldn’t ask anyone to work harder than he worked,” said Leroy Walker about his son, whom he called Joey.
On Wednesday nights, Joseph would work to have the bar packed with people, his father said. They hosted events like cornhole tournaments and discount nights for other members of the food and beverage industry. “Schemengees....where good friends gather for great food, fun and drinks!” the bar self-described on its Facebook page.
But on this particular Wednesday night, Joseph reportedly died a hero trying to protect his bar patrons from a mass shooter.
The suspect, who as of Friday morning had still not been found, reportedly killed seven people at a nearby bowling alley before killing eight people in the billiards room of Schemengees, according to Maryland State Police.
Leroy said State Police told him that his son confronted the shooter with a knife before he was gunned down.
“I knew inside he was that kind of a hero,” Leroy told Scripps News Correspondent Chris Stewart. “My son has always been there for people, helping people.”
Leroy, who is a city council member in the neighboring city of Auburn, first heard about the shooting from his youngest son. “He said ‘I was told Joey’s been shot’ and I almost fell to the floor,” Leroy said.
Leroy said it was a feeling all too familiar, having lost his daughter in a car crash years before. “You’re whole body just goes limp and your brain doesn’t work for quite a while,” he explained. “Your mind and your heart makes you go on. You ask help from the good Lord.”
Leroy and his family were engrained members of the community. He grew up across the Androscoggin River from Lewiston and spent nearly 40 years working for the City of Auburn’s Parks and Recreation Department, according to the city’s website.
He said the owners of Schemengees were like family to his son Joseph. After the shooting, the bar wrote on its Facebook, "My heart is crushed. I am at a loss for words," the bar wrote on Facebook. "In a split second your world gets turn upside down for no good reason. We loss great people in this community. How can we make any sense of this."
Leroy said, “We’ve watched many other communities go through almost the same types of things."
Authorities said Friday they were focusing their search for the alleged shooter to an area of the Androscoggin River near Lisbon, Maine, where the suspect’s car was found. Despite dealing with immeasurable pain from the loss of his son, Leroy said he doesn't detest the shooter.
“I don’t hate this guy at all. This guy wasn’t born to do what he did. It’s something wrong," Leroy explained. "We need to find him and then we need to be able to process whatever he was going through and find out why this was done.”
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