ST. LOUIS (KMOV.com) - A St. Louis man could spend the rest of his life behind bars after he was found guilty of first-degree murder Thursday.
Prosecutors say Dominique Kemper shot Andre Walker 23 times on March 23, 2016. Walker, 43, died.
The shooting happened outside, in broad daylight, in front of at least 15 witnesses, yet, only two were willing to testify in court. The St. Louis Circuit Attorney's Office says it's a common roadblock to justice in St. Louis.
Three years after his death, the faces of Walker's family still light up when they think about him.
"He was the comedian in our family. A big heart. Beautiful smile. He had a ridiculous laugh," said Serena Wilson-Griffin, Walker's cousin.
"It just took a big piece of the family away. The kids miss him. I just miss him," said Jamel Walker, Andre's younger brother.
Prosecutors say Walker was at a family friend's house for a wake when Kemper confronted him.
"He pulled out a gun. He shot Andre Walker twice while Andre was sitting on the hood. Andre fell to the ground and he shot him 21 more times. There were 23 entrance wounds," said Morley Swingle, an Assistant Circuit Attorney. "The fact that there were bullet holes in the back show the victim was rolling on the ground as the killer was standing over him, executing him."
"You had to know Dre to understand the shock. Because he wasn’t a street guy. Violence happens when you are in that life. That’s the reality. But he was a lover, a comedian," said Latoya Wilson, Walker's cousin.
"What makes this situation even more sad, is that one death tore two families apart. Because again this was not a family we rarely spoke to. We had family reunions they came to," said Serena Wilson-Griffin. "When Dre died, that relationship did, too. 40 years of friendship gone overnight."
Circuit Attorney Kim Gardner says relationships like that can actually make it harder to get witnesses to cooperate.
"When you have a tight-knit family, community, you see that intimidation becomes even worse because people know where you are, where you live, who you are connected to. That's what happens, a lot of good people are afraid," said Gardner. "Sometimes we have no one that’s willing to come forward."
Walker's family asked News 4 to share a picture that they say was posted on social media the night he was gunned down.
"It shows Andre Walker, down on the ground, mortally wounded, and surrounded by friends and the message to the victim’s family was going to be 'If you cooperate, this will happen to you,'" said Swingle. "They were so outraged by it, they brought this picture to police and prosecutors and said 'Please use it.' And we did, and it became one of the most powerful pieces of the case."
"In the pursuit of justice, people were intimidated. People are still in hiding to this day because everyone knew what happened but they were afraid to tell the truth," said Latoya Wilson.
But the family says they committed to each other, and to Andre, to fight, not hide.
"As a family we did our part. We showed up. We asked the Circuit Attorney’s Office, 'How can we partner with you?' In our grief learned everyone has a role," said Serena Wilson-Griffin.
"This case, more than anything, shows when the victim's family and the witnesses cooperate with police and prosecutor, you can get justice in a murder case in the City of St. Louis," said Swingle.
Kemper will be sentenced April 12. Prosecutors are asking for life without parole.