RACINE (WITI) -- Racine police say a 47-year-old customer was shot and killed as the American Legion tavern on Douglas Ave. was robbed at gunpoint early Saturday morning, May 31st. Police say both of the suspects fled after the robbery -- and remain at large.
The shooting victim has been identified as Joseph Walker.
"Somebody was shot and killed. It was really scary for us," a bar manager at the nearby Pour House said.
FOX6 News is told Joseph Walker leaves behind five children.
"He was just...he was a sweet person," Walker's mother, Beulah said.
Family members tell FOX6 News Joseph Walker told them he was going to step out for a few -- and he would be back home.
"It's a hard road. We made it (Saturday). It gave us the whole day, you know, to get through it," Walker's mother Beulah said.
Police say the suspects in this case had at least one gun and tried to get quick cash at the tavern.
Walker's family believes at least two shots were fired -- with the bartender avoiding the bullets.
Walker was not as fortunate.
"The first shot I guess was supped to be the warning shot and that's the one that got my son," Walker's mother Beulah said.
Walker's death is made even more difficult for Beulah, as she lost another son to cancer back in 2012.
But the disease gave the family warning. Saturday's bullets did not.
"It's hard to get through that because it's like reliving that part all over again," Walker's mother, Beulah said.
Police have put out the call to all businesses or homes nearby to share their surveillance video with police.
Where Dawn Walling works, they advertise the surveillance cameras. She says it's the cost of doing business after a string of robberies targeting taverns in Racine over the past two months.
"At least 10 that I know of," Walling said.
Walker's family is left hoping justice is served.
"I hope they do. I hope they do. I hope someone who actually knows what's going on will do the right thing and actually turn them in," Walker's mother Beulah said.
Racine bar managers tell FOX6 News they've seen police making more frequent bar checks since this string of bar robberies began.
Racine Police investigators are interested in any additional information that you may have about this crime. You are urged to call the Racine Police Department Investigations Unit at 262-635- 7756.
You may also contact Crimestoppers at 262-636-9330, or by texting RACS plus the message to CRIMES (274637) and referring to Tipsoft I.D. #TIP417 with your text message.
In a press release issued late Sunday, Racine Police Chief Art Howell said within the past two weeks, four commercial robbery suspects have been taken into custody -- three involving local tavern robberies, and one involved in a series of convenience store robberies.
However, Howell says: "The recent tragedy, however, underscores the reality that, in spite of recent arrests, more effort is required, as the most violent suspects remain at large at this time."
Chief Howell's full statement is as follows:
“During the early morning hours of Saturday May 31st, a member of our community was killed as a result of a brutal and senseless act of violence. In publically responding to this tragedy, I would like to extend my sincere condolences to the family of Mr. Walker, the victim in this case. I would like to assure the bereaved family and the public at large that the members of the Racine Police Department have been working around the clock to solve this tragic homicide.
Due to the recent surge in convenience store and tavern robberies, a great deal of police resources were dedicated towards this problem prior to this tragedy. Through the active engagement and support of members of the Racine Tavern League, and through focused police activity and investigative effort, within the past two weeks, four commercial robbery suspects have been taken into custody (three involving local tavern robberies and one suspect involved in a series of convenience store robberies). Additionally, a number of robberies were prevented and multiple firearms were removed from the streets.
The recent tragedy however underscores the reality that, in spite of recent arrests, more effort is required, as the most violent suspects remain at large at this time.
Since January of 2013, three homicides occurred in the City of Racine. Prior to the most recent tragedy, the two previous events were quickly resolved through the diligent work of dedicated police officers and investigators and through the support of area residents. Inasmuch as cooperation from the public was instrumental in quickly solving the referenced cases, and we look to the public for assistance in this case as well.
Anyone who has information regarding this homicide is strongly encouraged to contact the Racine Police Department investigative division immediately. In speaking directly to the individuals involved in this incident, one of you acted against all of us when you senselessly took a man’s life because you couldn’t take money you didn’t earn. When you are caught, you will face charges in accordance with your actions. As for the others involved, you each have a choice at this time. For the best outcome, I encourage you to turn yourself(s) in. You owe this much to Mr. Walker’s family. You can’t restore this innocent victim’s life; however, you can bring small measure of closure to his family.
Our community will not rest until this homicide is solved and those involved are punished to fullest extent of the law.”