DINWIDDIE COUNTY, Va. – The jury reached a guilty verdict on day thirteen of the Russell Brown capital murder trial. Brown, age 31, was found guilty of the murder of Virginia State Master Trooper Junius Walker, on Interstate 85 in March 2013.
Brown shot and killed Walker, 63, after the trooper pulled beside a disabled vehicle on the shoulder of southbound Interstate 85 in Dinwiddie, investigators said.
He had six felony charges: capital murder of a law enforcement officer, attempted capital murder of a law officer, three counts of use of a firearm in commission of a felony, and attempted murder.
Brown was initially deemed mentally unfit to stand trial.
Brown told state police that God told him to shoot and kill Walker, according to a court document. Brown also turned to the interviewing trooper and said that the trooper was the next to die.
He told troopers he smoked marijuana on March 7, the day of the shooting, according to the warrant. Police found residue of a "green leafy substance" in the vehicle Brown was driving.
Police also found a magazine containing two live rounds inside the car, according to the warrant.
Police said they spoke with Brown's grandmother who said she'd spoken to Russell recently and that over the last month or so he'd been talking about the Bible and not making much sense. She said that was unlike her grandson, the warrant indicated.
In March 2015 he was ruled competent to stand trial and his mental health review was terminated.
The defense still entered an insanity plea.
During his trial, according to the Progress Index, “two forensic psychologists testified that their evaluations concluded that at the time of the shooting Brown had a textbook case of a bipolar disorder, characterized by bouts of both depression and mania, and suffered from psychotic episodes.”
Dr. Evan Nelson testified for most of the morning regarding the series of tests and interviews he’d run on Brown. Nelson is a noted clinical psychologist called upon for expert analysis in cases ranging from the D.C. sniper trial to the Ricky Gray case.
As a whole, Nelson said that Brown’s was a case of Type I bipolar disorder, in which Brown exhibited other psychotic episodes. Nelson testified that marijuana use had an impact on Brown’s mental illness.
Brown’s fixation on religious symbolism, prophesy and a fatalistic belief in the upcoming end of the world gave him delusions of grandeur and a belief that his actions were part of “a preordained mission from God,” said Nelson.
During cross examination, the Commonwealth’s Attorney Ann Baskervill challenged the psychological assessment.
The murder of Junius Walker (words by Mark Holmberg)
Master Trooper Junius Walker was the most senior African-American trooper in the 1,800 member Virginia State Police force at the time of his murder.
He was simply trying to help what appeared to be a stranded motorist as his shift ended that March day.
Walker, 63, had pulled beside a disabled vehicle on the shoulder of southbound I-85 in Dinwiddie County, according to sources familiar with the case. Virginia State Police spokeswoman Corinne Geller also contributed to this timeline of what happened.
The trooper reflexively hit the gas. The patrol car raced down the hill and up into the woods, its wheels still spinning as it came to a stop.
The suspect apparently waited a few moments before approaching Walker’s still-running patrol car.
Passing motorists had seen the trooper’s car running off the road and called 911.
Two troopers were just a mile and a half or so up the interstate, also on the southbound side, safeguarding a road repair zone. One and then the other raced southbound to help.
The first responding officer saw someone firing into the trooper’s car. He radioed it in, then got out and exchanged gunfire with the suspect.
The suspect then reached into Trooper Walker’s car, apparently attempting to get at his service pistol secured in this holster. The responding trooper rushed to get his service rifle out of the trunk.
The suspect then ran into the woods, stripping off his clothes, perhaps in an attempt to elude tracking dogs.
Meanwhile, a Dinwiddie deputy sheriff who had just a little while earlier spotted the disabled car and the man on the hill, was coming around to help the motorist via U.S. Route 1 – which closely parallels the interstate. He heard the call of shots fired and of the suspect running through the woods.
Familiar with the area, the deputy scouted a nearby towing lot and spotted a naked man hiding in the back seat of a car and is able to handcuff him.
The two responding troopers pulled Walker out of his patrol car, which was sitting on top of a brush pile and had caught fire. Another officer arrived to help them pull Walker up the hill toward the roadway. There was nothing they can do for him.
There was some confusion at first about what happened – that perhaps there was another suspect – because of the many 911 cell phone calls, some of them routed to different call centers.
uring his preliminary hearing Thursday, the suspect, 28-year-old Russell Ervin Brown III of Chesterfield, told the court that he killed the trooper and was fine with being executed for it.
A close-friend of his said Russell Brown was largely raised by his grandfather, a respected Richmond deputy sheriff, now retired. The friend, like the family, believe Brown, a currently unemployed barber down his luck, completely snapped.
Brown had reached the end of his rope, his family and a friend said. He had been evicted from his house, he had missed a custody hearing for his children and was being hit for more child support. He was out of money, out of gas.
“When you’re going through a lot of stress, it can affect you mentally and psychologically,” said his sister, Michelle Brown. “And it can cause you to be paranoid and delusional, and I think that’s what happened to my brother.”
***reporting on the timeline of Master Trooper Junius Walker by Mark Holmberg