RICHMOND, Va. – A Virginia State Police special agent fatally shot by a convicted felon in a Richmond public housing complex was a father of three children and ex-Marine who founded youth wrestling club and coached disadvantaged children, authorities said.
Special Agent Michael T. Walter, 45, early Saturday died after being shot Friday night by Travis Ball in a ward in Virginia, the capital, which was ravaged by gun violence, according to police.
Walter, who was white, was an 18-year veteran of the Virginia State Police who has been employed with 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 Bureau of Criminal Investigation’s Richmond field office.
Walter is survived by his wife and two sons, aged 14 and 9— and a 6-year-old daughter, Flaherty said. He was well known in the suburb of Richmond community where he lived and started a non-profit wrestling organization for kids, police said.
“It was all about making a difference for disadvantaged young people: mentoring them and fostering their talents through physical fitness and sportsmanship,” Flaherty told reporters Saturday in Mosby Court near the place 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 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 agents observed a Chevrolet Cobalt pull a brake on the Redd’s Street and then pulled in the back of the car.
The Richmond officer went to speak with the driver. Walter approached the passenger side of the car when a single shot was heard, police said. Ball then took off after the shooting, sparking an overnight manhunt by eight local, state, and federal law enforcement agencies.
Ball, who is black, was arrested Saturday in Virginia’s Northern Neck about an hour after Walter died.
The 27-year-old is being held without bond on charges of malicious wounding and use of a firearm in the commission of a crime. Additional charges are pending.
The ball has a long criminal record, including convictions for assault and battery and cruelty to animals, court records show. He was convicted of a crime 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 car remained at the scene and was arrested. A gun was recovered at the scene in the vicinity of the Chevrolet Cobalt.
Keonna Williams lives in Mosby Court, a few doors down from where they said Ball lived with his girlfriend. Williams said that he looked like a “decent person,” but she didn’t know him well.
He was known in the community as “Wiz”, she said. They would occasionally see him outside with the children playing and said that he would sometimes buy snacks for the local children in the store.
“He seemed not 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 front porch in Mosby Court Friday night when she heard what she thought was a firecracker.
She came back outside when the 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 killed just a stone’s throw away from where Walter was shot, she said.
“Why do they think they have the right to take someone’s life?” Crutchfield said. “They do that to the police, you know that they don’t care about nobody else,” she said.
Richmond police chief Alfred Durham said police need the community to change.
“At a certain point, we must together as a people, as a community, as a city and say that we will not tolerate this anymore,” 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 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 the Virginia State Police to be killed since 1928, and the 11th is the last 11 years, the police inspector says.
The last Virginia soldier killed in the line of duty was Chad Dermyer, who was shot in March 2016 by a gunman at a Greyhound bus station while the police keep a counter-terrorism training. The shooter was killed by two other state troopers after he opened fire.
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