Carmen Walker of Sanford holds a photo of Joker, who stepped in front of a car Wednesday night, saving her from being hit. Joker, who was severely injured by the impact, ran toward the vehicle and was later hit by another car and died of his injuries. TAMMY WELLS/Journal Tribune

Carmen Walker of Sanford holds a photo of Joker, who stepped in front of a car Wednesday night, saving her from being hit. Joker, who was severely injured by the impact, ran toward the vehicle and was later hit by another car and died of his injuries. TAMMY WELLS/Journal Tribune

SANFORD — He was a faithful friend and family member for 11 years, so when Joker was hit by a car a week ago protecting a member of the family, it was difficult to bear.

Ian and Kristen Walker and their children Carmen and Ian Jr. are mourning the death of Joker, who pushed himself in front of Carmen, who was nearly hit by an SUV when she was walking him last Tuesday night. Joker was severely injured and ran towards the moving vehicle, was hit by another car about a mile away and died. TAMMY WELLS/Journal Tribune

Ian and Kristen Walker and their children Carmen and Ian Jr. are mourning the death of Joker, who pushed himself in front of Carmen, who was nearly hit by an SUV when she was walking him last Tuesday night. Joker was severely injured and ran towards the moving vehicle, was hit by another car about a mile away and died. TAMMY WELLS/Journal Tribune

Joker was protecting their 12-year-old daughter, Carmen, said the dog’s owners, Ian and Kristen Walker. The pet was hit while Carmen was walking him in downtown Sanford around 9:30 p.m. Wednesday evening. 

At the last minute, Carmen said Friday from her family’s apartment in Sanford, a driver tearing down Main Street toward Springvale turned onto Washington Street and made a quick — far too quick — turn onto School Street.

Carmen had Joker — a large pit bull — on a leash and was crossing from the park side of the road to the area near Aroma Joe’s said her father, Ian Walker, who noted the area is well-lit. He said his daughter was at the crosswalk when the driver made the turn.

Carmen said Joker jumped in front of her and was hit, the impact breaking a five-point harness. Her own hand brushed the hood of the vehicle, Carmen said — it was that close. Then the wounded dog ran away, down School Street behind the speeding vehicle — Carmen believes it was a white SUV, perhaps a Ford, that didn’t stop.

“The dog pushed me out of the way,” she said.

Moments later, police received a call from someone saying they’d hit a dog that ran out from behind some bushes at the intersection of Main and Stillson streets. Joker, whom Ian said had severe injuries, was killed.

Joker was a big dog, a pit bull who came into the family as a puppy, said Ian. The family was living in Ocala, Florida, at the time and Ian was on his way to find an Australian cattle dog when he stopped at a kennel. There were no Australian cattle dogs there, but Joker was, and he soon more than proved his worth as a family member and protector.

The family was still living in Florida and Kristen Walker was pregnant with their son, Ian Jr., now 8 years old, when she was walking the dog.

“A drug addict came up behind me with a knife,” she said. Joker stepped in and saved her.

“Joker was an amazing dog, he was my hero,” said Kristen.

Another day, a man was trying to make off with a car that was owned by an off-duty Daytona Beach police officer. Joker stopped him from taking the car, Ian said.

He wasn’t a barker, rarely growled and never bit anyone, but his size scared people “up to no good,” said Ian.

“He proved a lot of people wrong on their theories about pill bulls,” he said.

These days, as the family mourns the loss of their dog, they take comfort in Minotaur, a 4-year-old pit bull fathered by Joker. 

Kristen Walker says she is hoping the family can move to a location where there is a yard for a dog and he can get exercise there.

Police investigated the hit-and-run on the night it took place, but at present have no additional information to go on, Dep. Police Chief Tim Strout said late last week.

Ian Walker said he just wants drivers to slow down and be mindful of crosswalks. The vehicle that hit Joker could just as easily have hit his daughter, and would have, had the dog not stepped in, he said.

“Hopefully people open their eyes and slow down, and stop at crosswalks,” he said.

— Senior Staff Writer Tammy Wells can be contacted at 324-4444 (local call in Sanford) or 282-1535, ext. 327 or [email protected]


Comments are not available on this story.

filed under: