Warner Robins Mayor Donald Walker was pronounced dead at 1:49 p.m. today after he suffered a gunshot wound to the head, Bibb County Coroner Leon Jones said.
The wound appears to have been self-inflicted, Warner Robins Police Chief Brett Evans said. Evans and several City Council members said they don’t know why the mayor would have shot himself.
The shooting happened at the mayor’s house and was reported at 11:08 a.m. by his wife, Patricia, Evans said. She was the only one at home with the mayor when he was shot, said Evans, who did not think she witnessed the actual shooting.
Evans said he couldn’t confirm yet what type of gun was used, or whether it was Walker’s personal weapon. He said he wasn’t aware of any note, and an investigation is proceeding.
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A City Council meeting has been called for 4:30 p.m. Mayor Pro Tem John Havrilla is expected to take charge of the city. Walker, 60, was initially taken to the Houston Medical Center, arriving there shortly after 11:30 a.m., Evans said. He was then taken to The Medical Center of Central Georgia early this afternoon.
Friends and family came to The Medical Center in Macon as well.
Vickie Barnes, a family friend, was among those who drove to the Medical Center.
“The doctor just came in and said the wounds are horrific. .... He’s lost a lot of blood,” she said. “His family is just being real strong right now.”
Patricia Walker and Walker’s brother, Jay, were in a waiting room at the emergency center. At least two city council members arrived at the hospital too, as well as Walker’s pastor.
Barnes said the family needs prayers now. Family members, through a hospital spokeswoman, asked the public to respect their privacy.
Walker’s next-door neighbor, Clint Maddox, was home when police were on the scene.
“There were five or six police cars with all the lights going,” Maddox said. The yard was roped off when Maddox said he stepped outside his home this morning.
Maddox called Walker a “tender-hearted” man.
“He’s one of the best human beings that God ever made when it came to helping people,” Maddox said.
The three contenders for Walker’s long-held spot all expressed shock upon learning of his death.
Pharmaceutical sales representative Chuck Shaheen, struggling through tears, said he was shocked by the early morning events.
“I’m just so sorry,” Shaheen said Monday afternoon.
A statement issued later said the Shaheen campaign was saddened by the news and that the Walker family has been “a landmark in the community for many years.”
“Warner Robins has lost a son whose footprint will forever be on the heart of our great city.”
Chuck Chalk, a retired air force veteran and program manager at Robins Air Force Base, said Walker should be remembered for the many years of service he gave to the city. He also urged action by all affected by the tragedy.
“I encourage each pastor to attend to their congregations,” he said in a statement. “I encourage each citizen to get connected. You are not alone and you can find a shoulder to rest your head.
“I encourage every citizen to open up and show some compassion in the days to come as we all deal with this loss in our own way.”
City Councilman Clifford Holmes, who has known Walker since he got to Warner Robins more than 40 years ago, said he was sitting in his campaign headquarters, in the same area as the mayor’s home, when police passed by. He immediately figured something serious was happening, but he never thought it would be related to the mayor.
“We’re all shocked and saddened that this happened to our mayor,” he said. “We’re sending our prayers to the family.”
Centerville Mayor Harold M. “Bubba” Edwards said he was driving up to North Carolina when he heard the news.
“It’s a sad day for Middle Georgia,” Edwards said. “You never want to see that (ending) for someone who dedicated their life to public service.”
He said Walker had mentioned suffering from insomnia recently but hoped it was not the cause for Monday morning’s events.
U.S. Rep. Jim Marshall, a former Macon mayor, said he was shocked to hear of Walker’s death.
“Our thoughts and prayers are with his family. His exceptional legacy as mayor will be difficult to match. His is truly a life worth celebrating,” Marshall said.
Walker is in the midst of a heated re-election campaign. He was first elected to the position in a 1994 special election.
In 1997, he won re-election with more than 85 percent of the vote. Then in 2001, state Rep. Pam Bohannon, with whom Walker already had a tense relationship, challenged him. Walker took 64 percent of the vote.
In 2005, no one ran against him.
Walker’s brother Jay is longtime Houston County Commissioner. Their father was the city’s mayor from 1968 to 1972. The city municipal complex, where Walker works in the corner office, is named after his father, Homer J. Walker.
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