- Melina Paris
“Compassionate,” “kind” and “loving” are some of the terms people in San Pedro have used to describe Walter Crespo.
“Wally,” as most people in the Harbor community knew him, was a doting father, an artist and a skilled laborer. The 38-year-old man was killed June 11, in an alley. He was one of three victims murdered that month in San Pedro.
While Los Angeles Police Department officials told this Random Lengths News reporter that they did not have any leads on the murder on June 23, a suspect was arrested June 28.
Parts of his life became known in the days after his death. Wally had hurdles but his Facebook page showed a man with a positive attitude. A quick rundown showed that he was a loving, single father. He recently acquired custody of his oldest daughter, he was a work out buff, he had been incarcerated and he came out a born-again Christian. Wally frequently expressed gratitude on his social media page for family, God, and even blueberries. He was a former drug user, who had been sober for four years, and a punk-rock fan. He was also a budding tattoo artist.
Some of Wally’s friends remember him as a regular at one of the community’s oldest coffee shops, Sacred Grounds.
On a recent visit to Sacred Grounds, I saw a donation box on the counter for Wally’s funeral services. There was something about a man who stood near the counter. He caught my attention. “Did you know this man?” I asked him, jestering to the box.
His eyes answered before he did.
“Yeah, he was one of my best friends,” he responded.
After I introduced myself, he reciprocated. His name is Eddie Baca, a casual longshoreman and former Sacred Grounds employee.
It turned out Baca, 59, was like a big brother or uncle figure to Wally. He described Wally as man with struggles, who had reached a good place in life, with more progress to come.
He and Wally met through mutual friends when Sacred Grounds was still at the corner of Sixth and Mesa streets, around 2002 to 2003. Wally had moved here from Norwalk.
At the time, Sacred Grounds hosted live shows and Wally hung out with the punk crowd. Baca was in charge of security at the coffee house. Wally once said that he noticed that Baca didn’t take mess from anyone and he respected that.
Baca knew Wally’s mother and his aunt from years earlier, when they each worked and lived at The La Salle Hotel on Seventh Street. Wally was a young child back then. The connection brought them even closer.
Wally was at a crossroad with his spirituality. Baca, who describes himself as “eternal” because he “has Jesus in his life,” said Wally had what he called, “a back-and-forth issue with his spirituality.”
The men also shared common indigenous and Hispanic ancestry.
“Native American people have their spirituality, but it was battle for Wally,” Baca said.
One time, Wally told Baca that he attended the Calvary Church and many of the people there, he felt, looked at him like he was “evil.” Nobody wanted to talk to him and they looked at him “kind of weird.” When Baca asked him why, Wally thought it might be because of his appearance — his tattoos. Baca tried to council him saying, he gets that too because of his long hair. But he encouraged Wally to go with him to his church instead. The two often read Bible scriptures and prayed together.
Sometimes if you caught Wally at the wrong time he could behave erratically. Sometimes he was very temperamental and other times very open. You just had to choose wisely when talking to him about certain issues, Baca explained.
Wally had a good imagination and wanted to pursue his artistic side. He recently bought a tattoo gun and had created some designs for his friends. He also painted. Wally would create little designs on rocks for his daughters. One of Wally’s goals was to be in the art scene, including with his tattoo work. He wanted to show his work and eventually sell it.
Baca described him as good dad, despite the ups and downs of dealing with his past drug use.
Baca also has 20 of sobriety and was like a “big homie” to his friend. He felt Wally looked up to him and another mutual friend because he confided in them. He was into the punk rock culture. But Wally wouldn’t open up about things that happened when he was into it heavily. He would go to concerts and get into the mosh pits. Sometimes fights ensued. Wally was even jumped by skinheads on one occasion.
Baca said Wally had high hopes and he pursued his goals.
“He was a lifelong work in progress,” Baca said. “Wally’s daughters lost the best dad that I could ever think of. They loved him with a passion.”
Baca said Wally had come a long way. He had four years of sobriety. Recently, he acquired full custody of his oldest daughter, who is 16 years old. She was dropped off at his home. He hadn’t seen her for nine years. The daughter lived with her mother but she eventually ended up in the foster system and Wally lost touch with her during the time that he was incarcerated. When he reconnected with her he immediately tried to get full custody.
He had his youngest daughter, who is about 11 or 12, each weekend. Baca said every weekend he stopped everything he was doing.
“His focus was on his daughter from the minute she came over on Friday until she left Sunday night,” Baca said.
The girls have different mothers. Now, Wally’s mother and his sister share the responsibility of taking care of the girls.
Wally’s mother, Cindy Hebert also took time to talk about him. She reflected on a story she was told about Wally when she went to make funeral arrangements. Before she even saw Wally’s picture, the woman at McNerney’s asked Cindy, “Does he have a daughter?”
Then she asked, “They walk by here every single day, don’t they?” Hebert recalled.
She told Hebert that Wally was with his daughter. She had fallen and they went to sit on the grass.
“He tended to her wounds and kissed her and they stayed there for a while,” Hebert retold. “She just observed that and said she thinks about that (every) time she walks by.”
“He’s been a good dad to his youngest,” Hebert said. “He sees her every weekend. He takes her and does things. He is the father that he never had, not being raised by a father. He came to be a good father.
Hebert said Wally told her, ‘I learned it from my mom, because my mom was my mom and dad.’”
Wally was compassionate when it came to people who didn’t have anything.
“He didn’t have much either,” Hebert said. “He struggled but if he made more than he could eat, he would always take it to the homeless people and he took blankets to cover people.”
Wally was a very compassionate son.
“He would always try to meet my needs,” Hebert said. “I didn’t need him to help me but he would always see what I needed. Every road that we went on, we went on together. In his downfalls, I was right beside him and he was beside me when I had medical issues. We were very close.”
Hebert received a card from a police officer who said that he didn’t know her son personally. However, when he saw Wally, he was picking up trash, he was concerned about things in his community and he was doing something almost every time he would see him. Hebert was overwhelmed with people coming up to her. She didn’t realize Wally knew that many people.
“I don’t even think he realized it,” Hebert said. “He thought he was alone but he wasn’t. A lot of people reached out.”
As Wally had concern for his community, that concern was reciprocated. Unfortunately, the communities efforts for Wally were also cut short. That collection box for Wally that was at Sacred Grounds a few weeks back has since gone missing. But employees of Sacred Grounds said that Wally’s services still happened and they had a great celebration of his life afterward at Sacred Grounds.
With these kinds of situations sometimes, for whatever reason, it sticks with you. There are unanswered questions about what happened and why and who the victim was. On June 23, Random Lengths News was told the police did not have any leads on who killed Wally. On June 15, Wally’s mother said they went to court July 10 and a suspect was brought out. The suspect was arrested for a felony, June 28. Hebert said there were “no offers on the table.” They would return to court about one month after Wally died, on July 17. As of July 19, a suspect is in custody with $1.04 million bail with a court date scheduled for Aug. 22.