RAEFORD – Jason Walker on Friday was remembered as a good man who loved people and loved serving others.
About 200 people attended the 90-minute funeral service at the Cape Fear Conference “B’’ Headquarters off Fayetteville Road. It is the same location where a memorial service was held for George Floyd in June 2020.
Walker, 37, was fatally shot by an off-duty Cumberland County Sheriff’s Office deputy on Jan. 8 on Bingham Drive.
Jeffrey Hash, the off-duty deputy, has said that Walker jumped onto the hood of his pickup, broke off his windshield wipers and cracked his windshield. Hash said he was defending his wife and daughter, who were in the truck with him.
Hash is on paid administrative leave. No charges have been filed. The State Bureau of Investigation is looking into the shooting.
Walker’s death has prompted rallies and protests in the city, with people calling for an arrest in the case. “Justice for Jason” has become a mantra for those who demonstrate in his name.
Friday’s service incorporated stirring singing and loving remembrances into what the Rev. Richard Hooker called “this sad but joyous occasion.”
“Thank God for Jason,” Hooker said during the eulogy. “Jason was somebody. We thank him for all the good things he did.”
“Let’s celebrate his life,” he said deeper into his address.
Friends and family remembered Walker as a kind and gentle person, a likable guy, an outstanding caregiver, and a man who loved people and loved serving others.
During her remarks, Gail McNeil called Walker “my baby. He often was my baby when I talked to him. Even when he was 37. Jason had a love,” she said. “He would always say, ‘I love you. I love you.’ Even if you gave him a loaf of bread.”
McNeil is the sister of Janice Walker, Jason’s mother.
After thanking his family and friends for what they did for him during his life, McNeil told the congregation, “We don’t understand it now. But we will by and by.”
Angela Hall, 36, of Fayetteville, said before the service that she and Walker had been good friends for more than 20 years.
“He is really – I’ve not seen anybody else like him,” she said from a pew. “He loves to smile with those dimples. He loves his family. I know he took care of the elderly. That was his passion. I could write a book about him.”
Hall learned of Walker’s death while attending her nephew’s birthday party. She said she first saw the news on her cellphone.
“I was literally in shock,” she recalled. “I had my mom read it to me to make sure I was right. The only thing I remember is falling to the ground and crying.”
At 10 a.m., an hour before the funeral started, Walker’s body was rolled in, a colorful blanket draped over his coffin. Flowers were placed on each end of the casket.
Later, as the organ swelled in volume behind her, the Pastor Sharon Journigan said during her prayer of comfort, “We find this family in a season of mourning. But not without hope.”
Mary Owens, a friend of the family, described Walker as a special person whom everyone loved.
“Jason was our go-to guy. Always able to fix things,” she said. “He’s so loved by so many people. Everybody in that community knew Jason.”
Christian Heywood, Walker’s son, spoke during the service, saying his father was always pushing him to be better. He said everybody was always excited when his dad came around with all the jokes and “that dimples smile.”
Growing up, he said, he was amazed that his father knew so many things about computers, video games and other technology.
“I always told him, ‘When I grow up, I want to be like you.’ He said, ‘Man, I’m not trying to make you like me. I try to make you better than me.’’’’
The applause rippled through the congregation.
“He always told me – knowledge. He told me to read all the time,” Christian said. “He taught me, and I’m going to try to add to it the best I can. I’ll be the best man I can.”
People stood and applauded again.
Following the service, Walker’s committal and interment rites were given at Cumberland Memorial Gardens in Fayetteville.
Michael Futch covers Fayetteville and education for CityView TODAY. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Have a news tip? Email news@CityViewTODAY.com.