Trooper’s death causes shockwaves

 

Gov. John Carney, left, comforts Delaware State Police Superintendent Col. Nathaniel McQueen during a press conference at Troop 2 in Glasgow on Thursday. Delaware State Police Cpl. Stephen J. Ballard was killed in the line of duty on Wednesday at a Wawa convenience store in Bear. (Delaware State News/Marc Clery)

DOVER — Cpl. Stephen J. Ballard’s commitment to the Delaware State Police never wavered, all the way up until his death, according to Col. Nathaniel McQueen.

“The actions exemplified the dedication that he brought … on a daily basis,” said Col. McQueen, who leads the state police agency. “He was doing what he’s asked to do every day.”

Cpl. Ballard, 32, was shot multiple times and killed while on duty Wednesday after he approached a suspicious vehicle at the Wawa convenience store on Pulaski Highway in Bear.

The trooper, who was a veteran of the state police for eight-and-a-half years, was assigned to patrol at Troop 2 in Glasgow.

He left behind his wife Louise, a 5-year-old daughter, and “loving family and scores of friends and loyal colleagues,” Gov. John Carney said.

Funeral services have yet to be announced for Cpl. Ballard, who was a resident of Milford, according to his Facebook page.

Stephen J. Ballard

Cpl. Ballard joined Lt. Steven Floyd, a correctional officer who was killed in a prisoner uprising at the James T. Vaughn Correctional Center near Smyrna on Feb. 1, as active officers who have been killed in the state within the past three months.

The suspect in Cpl. Ballard’s fatal shooting fled the convenience store and holed up inside his home in Middletown. Police said Burgon Sealy Jr., 26, fired repeatedly at officers during the almost 20-hour standoff and then was killed Thursday morning by law enforcement after exiting his home armed and engaging officers.

Shockwaves felt through state

Whenever a police officer is killed in the line of duty it brings a harsh reality to the seriousness of the job that they do and tightens a fraternal bond between law enforcement members. In the wake of Cpl. Ballard’s death, condolences poured out in public memorials, with lowered flags and in expressions on social media.

The loss of Cpl. Ballard was certainly felt strongly throughout the state’s Thin Blue Line, particularly in Milford, where he lived with his young family.

Det. Timothy Maloney, spokesman for the Milford Police Department, said that many of Milford’s officers knew Cpl. Ballard when he worked in Sussex County as a state trooper.

“The men and women of the Milford Police Department are deeply saddened over the tragic death of Cpl. Stephen Ballard, a Delaware state trooper,” Det. Maloney said. “Many Milford police officers got to know Cpl. Ballard while he was assigned at downstate troops and he was well-respected by members of our department.

Erin Scotti, left, watches Pam Redmond light a candle for slain officer Cpl. Stephen J. Ballard at the Wawa in Bear on Thursday. (Delaware State News/Marc Clery)

“Our thoughts and prayers go out to his family and the men and women of the Delaware State Police during this difficult time.”

Master Cpl. Mark Hoffman, spokesman for the Dover Police Department, said the tragedy brings the law enforcement community throughout the state together.

“The Dover Police Department mourns with the Delaware State Police as they grieve the loss of Cpl. Stephen Ballard,” he said. “The law enforcement community is very tight knit in Delaware and this tragedy affects us all and reminds us of the dangers that exist when officers across this state put on their uniform to serve their community each and every day.

“Our prayers are with the Delaware State Police during this difficult time.”

DSU grad gone too soon

Cpl. Ballard graduated in 2007 from Delaware State University, where he majored in sociology criminal justice, said Carlos Holmes, director of News Services for the university.

The DSU graduate had remained active on campus as a member of the Delaware chapter of the National Association of Black Law Enforcement Executives, or NOBLE.

“Cpl. Ballard was very much involved in that, as you can imagine, being an alumnus of DelState and a product of the sociology criminal justice program,” said Mr. Holmes, who added that DSU’s NOBLE organization is the only collegiate chapter in the country and works closely with state chapter members with mentoring activities.

“He took part in activities with (DSU students) to help acclimate them to the career of criminal justice. It was very, very beneficial to them,” Mr. Holmes said. “(Thursday), a couple of the NOBLE state chapter guys came down and met with the collegiate chapter. It was kind of a session where they could grieve together.”

Cpl. Ballard, who also served as a mentor at Star Hill Elementary in the Caesar Rodney School District from 2014 until 2016, was just at DSU last week to visit with the DSU police. “He had a good relationship with them,” Mr. Holmes said.

DSU President Harry L. Williams notified the campus community of Cpl. Ballard’s death and said: “He was also a respected friend and professional colleague to our DSU Police Department members. You will notice our DSU police and security officers wearing a black band in honor of Cpl. Ballard. Our thoughts and prayers are with the Ballard family, his friends, the Delaware State Police, as well as the entire Delaware law enforcement community.”

Legislature honors trooper

Both the Senate and the House had moments of silence on Thursday for Cpl. Ballard.

The trooper worked in all three counties, being stationed at Troops 2, 3 and 4, House Speaker Pete Schwartzkopf said.

The daily prayer in the House mentioned people who risk their lives to protect others, and several representatives made brief remarks about Cpl. Ballard’s death.

A memorial for Cpl. Ballard will be held on Monday in Georgetown, starting at 8 p.m. at The Circle, lawmakers said. The corporal’s first troop out of the police academy was in Georgetown.

Additionally, the annual Law Enforcement Memorial ceremony — which was already scheduled — will take place Wednesday in Dover.

“It’s unfortunate that this year we’ll be adding another name to that wall,” said Rep. Larry Mitchell, a former police officer.

Sen. Dave Lawson, who spent 19 years with the state police, was initially silent when asked his thoughts on the killing of Cpl. Ballard.

After several seconds, he said the state “is at war with crime.” The Department of Justice needs to fiercely prosecute criminals and should not accept plea deals, he opined.

Rep. Steve Smyk, a past president of the Delaware State Trooper Association, appeared pained as he spoke about the death of Cpl. Ballard.

Awful as they are, incidents like Wednesday’s, he said, tend to bring communities together.

“It seems that whenever the politics are for anti-police, something like this happens that brings the community back and makes those policemen realize when they go to work that day, as they do every day, and they put their life on (the line), they really do not know if they’re going home at the end of the day,” he said.

“This only confirms that we are doing this for the right people. The people appreciate that we are willing to give our life to them.”

Online tributes roll in

The Facebook page for the Delaware State Police was filled with tributes to Cpl. Ballard and well wishes and prayers for his family.

Michael Beil, from Gumboro, recalled one encounter he had with Cpl. Ballard while the trooper was on the job.

“Years ago my grandfather died,” he wrote. “It wasn’t suspicious, but I guess the local police couldn’t handle it. The state police showed up and it happened to be Cpl. Ballard.

“He joked with my brother, myself and my dad. He made light of a terrible situation and made us laugh and forget what was really going on. I will never forget that. God bless his family and may he be in my family’s prayers.”

Shari Haines Wismer thanked Cpl. Ballard for making the ultimate sacrifice.

“God bless Cpl. Ballard and all of his brothers and sisters in blue,” she wrote. “You are all in my prayers as you grieve his loss and stand together to serve our community.

“Stay strong. Thank you for your service. We appreciate your sacrifice each and every day to keep us all safe.”

Memorial fund, rally set

•A memorial fund has been established at the Delaware State Police Federal Credit Union in the name of Cpl. Stephen Ballard and all proceeds will be given to his wife and 5-year-old daughter. Checks can be made out to the DSTA-Stephen Ballard Memorial Fund, PO Box 168, Cheswold, DE 19936.

State Police said that is the only official memorial fund dedicated in the name of Cpl/1 Stephen Ballard. For any questions, contact the Delaware State Troopers Association at 302-736-9958.

• A Stand Up For Law Enforcement Rally will be held in honor of Cpl. Ballard and the men and women of the Delaware State Police on Monday from 6:30 until 8 p.m. at the Wawa at 1605 Pulaski Highway in Bear, the site were the trooper was killed on Wednesday.

Reach staff writer Matt Bittle at mbittle@newszap.com

Delaware State News staff writer Mike Finney can be reached at mfinney@newszap.com.

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