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Young father gunned down at Altadena burger stand was 'not some street thug'

Christoper Walker pictured in an undated family photoThe day before Halloween, Christopher Walker, 26, sat on the patio of an Altadena burger stand off Fair Oaks Avenue about 4:30 p.m.

He'd stopped on his way to pick up his 5-year-old daughter from kindergarten.

A light-colored sedan drove up. A person got out and shot at Walker multiple times. Then the shooter got back into the car and fled east on East Calaveras Street.

"No words were exchanged," said Lt. Holly Francisco with the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department. It was the first homicide in Altadena, where Walker grew up, since 2012.

So far, investigators are looking for witnesses, and Walker's friends and family are stunned. After a rocky childhood, his parents, Ursula and Richard Walker, thought they had their son back.

"The man who was murdered was not some street thug," his father said.

Christopher Walker had a steady job in marketing, a girlfriend who had moved with him from Arizona, and two children. His life contrasted sharply with the choices he had made in the past.

The trouble started when Christopher was young. Richard Walker, 60, took his son to Loma Alta Park in Altadena to play sports. Slowly, Christopher made friends with the other children in the neighborhood.

By the time Christopher was 11, he was spending most of his free time at the park. He became involved with gangs, trading his real name for the moniker "C Madness."

His parents felt helpless. His mother brought mentors around in an effort to help her son.

For many years he seemed lost to them. He dropped out of school and moved to Arizona. His jobs were at bakeries or grocery stores. Then a year and half ago, Christopher came back to California with his girlfriend. He had changed.

On workdays, he arrived at his parents' home by 5:50 a.m. He'd drive with his mother to downtown L.A., where the two worked blocks from each other. At the end of the day, they'd drive home together.

"I would tell him about my day," said Ursula Walker, an office manager. "If I had a bad day, he would say, 'I'm sorry, Mom.'"

In the Walker home last week, photos were strewn on the coffee table, gathered for a slide show for Christopher's funeral. Trophies from basketball, football and baseball took up multiple shelves.Ursula and Richard Wallker at their Altadena home.

Richard and Ursula had been engaged parents to all their children, reading to them at night, educating them in private schools, trying to keep them engaged in sports and after-school activities.

"You name it, we did it," Richard Walker said. He sat on a white leather couch with his wife and two daughters.

He recalled a moment in June when he crossed the finish line for a 50-meter race at the Pasadena Senior Games and Christopher was there, with a large smile. He told his father how proud he was.

"He was just really happy," Richard Walker recalled. He qualified for the National Senior Games and plans to dedicate the race to his son.

As news of Christopher's death has spread, his friends, some from his gang life, have stopped by to offer their condolences. The friends have told the Walkers that instead of talking about the streets, their son was speaking about the future, his job and his family.

Investigators said they do not know whether Walker's past played a role in his death. Despite his previous gang activity, he never served time in prison.

Christopher's daughter has asked for him. She told her mother that her father never brought her chips and a drink that day.

Anyone with information is asked to call the Sheriff's Department Homicide Bureau at (323) 890-5500. Those who wish to remain anonymous can call Crime Stoppers at (800) 222-8477.

-- Nicole Santa Cruz

Photos: Top, undated family photo of Christopher Walker. Bottom, Ursula and Richard Walker at their Altadena home. Credit: Cheryl A. Guerrero / Los Angeles Times

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