The Life of a Private Investigator
November 20, 2014
With a leather jacket, tinted aviators and a silver belt buckle in the shape of a police star, Alton Walker carries himself with a swagger straight out of the crime shows he likens his job to.
His voice is deep with a slight southern drawl that makes every word seem purposeful, and his square diamond earrings allude to his past as an NFL football player.
Now, he’s a private investigator who receives contracts from the FBI and Federal Marshals for anything from terrorism to infidelity.
“When my guys come, we come with a thunder,” says Walker. “We aren’t slowing down, we aren’t coming to play, we’re coming to get it.”
Walker’s been at his current job for a little less than two years, but his life has been entangled with the law since he was a child. At age 13, his house was robbed. The assailants tied up his grandparents in a chair and made his parents lie on the ground in their backyard, putting guns to their heads.
Walker, who was asleep when the robbery started, woke up and started calling his parent’s names. When he spotted his parents outside, he ran to retrieve his family’s gun. His grandfather, who had freed himself, got to the gun first and started firing at the burglars, who got away in a car.
“We called the police, they came, and within a couple of hours they caught the guys who took our stuff,” he says. “And when I saw that, [and] all the cars flying and the guys with the uniforms and the guns, and I’ve been fascinated ever since.”
While playing professional football, both for the NFL and arena leagues, he took a day job as a sheriff deputy. After retiring from football, he moved to Wyoming to become a sheriff and quickly worked his way up, eventually protecting a governor of Wyoming. Following that, the governor helped him get a job working for the US Federal Marshals.
“I was on the extraction team: guys who kick in doors and deal with drugs,” he says. “That’s pretty much all I can say without breaking the law.”
Although Walker enjoyed working with the Marshals, the constant travel took him away from his family often.
“I didn’t want to put a price tag on that, my family comes first.”
So, he started his own PI business. It was a natural step for Walker, who refers to police as ‘Local Leos’ and whose travels have taken him across continents.
“Certain laws they [the government] can’t break, and we can, and vice versa,” he says. “When they want things done under the radar, they hire guys like myself.”
A typical case takes Walker about 30 days, with the government paying him $5000 to $100,000 per job.
“I’ve been paid to go to strip clubs and watch people, I’ve been paid to deliver someone to a federal prison,” he says with a chuckle. “I’ve been paid to do a lot of crazy things, a lot of stuff that takes two minutes that I get paid a lot for.”
And yes, Walker says, there are similarities between his job and popular TV shows like “Law & Order SVU.”
“When you guys are asleep, over at MacDill and the FBI a lot goes on that you don’t know about. It’s the things you see on TV that you never think would happen in real life, but some of it does.”
Isabel Hanewicz is a senior at Robinson High School and is the editor-in-chief of RHStoday. She was named the 2014 Emerging Young Journalist of the Year...