RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — A Virginia State Police special agent fatally shot by a convicted felon in a Richmond public housing complex was a father of three and former Marine who founded a youth wrestling club and mentored disadvantaged kids, authorities said.
Special Agent Michael T. Walter, 45, died early Saturday after being shot Friday evening by Travis Ball in a neighborhood in Virginia’s capital city that has been plagued by gun violence, police said.
Walter, who was white, was an 18-year veteran of Virginia State Police who previously served in the Marine Corps, State Police Superintendent Col. Steven Flaherty said.
The Philadelphia native was promoted to special agent in 2010 and was working in drug enforcement in the state police’s Bureau of Criminal Investigation’s Richmond field office.
Walter is survived by a wife and two sons— ages 14 and 9— and a 6-year-old daughter, Flaherty said. He was well-known in the suburban Richmond community where he lived and started a nonprofit wrestling organization for kids, police said.
“It was all about making a difference to disadvantaged youth: mentoring them and fostering their talents through physical fitness and sportsmanship,” Flaherty told reporters Saturday in Mosby Court near the spot where Walter was shot.
The shooting rattled residents of the public housing community, which has seen six homicides and 19 people injured in shootings this year.
“I just shook my head and said ‘not again’,” said Darlene Crutchfield, who saw Walter’s body lying on the ground near where her 34-year-old son was killed in Mosby Court in 2015.
Walter was shot Friday night while on patrol with a City of Richmond police officer, police said. The officers observed a Chevrolet Cobalt pull up to a curb on Redd Street and then pulled in behind the car.
The Richmond officer went to speak to the driver. Walter approached the passenger side of the car when a single shot rang out, police said. Ball then took off after the shooting, sparking an overnight manhunt by eight local, state, federal law enforcement agencies.
Ball, who’s black, was arrested Saturday in Virginia’s Northern Neck about an hour after Walter’s death.
The 27-year-old is being held without bond on charges that include malicious wounding and use of a firearm in the commission of a felony. Additional charges are pending.
Ball has a lengthy criminal record, including convictions for assault and battery and cruelty to animals, court records show. He was convicted of a felony in 2014 for unauthorized use of a vehicle and was charged last year with violating his probation, according to online court records.
The Richmond officer was not injured, police said. The driver of the vehicle remained at the scene and was detained. A handgun was recovered at the scene near the Chevrolet Cobalt.
Keonna Williams lives in Mosby Court a few doors down from where she said Ball lived with his girlfriend. Williams said he seemed like a “decent person,” but she didn’t know him well.
He was known in the community as “Wiz,” she said. She would occasionally see him outside playing with children and said he would sometimes buy snacks for local kids at the store.
“He didn’t seem like a ruthless person — we see a lot of ruthless people around here — but he didn’t seem like that type,” Williams said.
Crutchfield said she was sitting on her porch in Mosby Court Friday night when she heard what she thought was a firecracker.
She came back outside when police arrived and saw Walter’s body on the ground, she said. The image brought a flood of painful memories of her son, who was slain just steps away from where Walter was shot, she said.
“Why do they think they have the right to take someone’s life?” Crutchfield said. “They start doing that to the police officers, you know they don’t care about no one else,” she said.
Richmond Police Chief Alfred Durham said police need the community’s help to bring change.
“At some point, we have to get it together as a people, as a community, as a city and say we’re not going to tolerate this no more,” Durham told reporters.
Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe said he and the first lady are heartbroken for Walter’s wife and children.
“Special Agent Walter was one of our brave men and women in uniform who risk their lives every single day to protect their fellow Virginians. We will be forever grateful for his service and sacrifice,” McAuliffe said in a statement.
Walter is the 63rd member of Virginia State Police to be killed since 1928 and the 11th is the last 11 years, the police superintendent said.
The last Virginia trooper killed in the line of duty was Chad Dermyer, who was shot in March 2016 by a gunman at a Greyhound bus station while police were holding a counterterrorism training exercise. The gunman was killed by two other state troopers after he opened fire.
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