Virginia police special agent fatally shot; suspect arrested

Travis Ball

RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — A man fatally shot a Virginia State Police special agent in a Richmond public housing project before fleeing on foot, sparking an overnight manhunt that ended with his arrest on Saturday, authorities said.
Travis Ball, 27, is charged in the Friday shooting of Special Agent Michael T. Walter, who died early Saturday, authorities said.
Walter was shot after he and a city of Richmond police officer approached a car in Mosby Court, a public housing community in Virginia’s capital city that has been plagued by gun violence, police said.
Ball 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.
Walter, who’s white, was an 18-year veteran of Virginia State Police and former member of the U.S. 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. Outside of his work in law enforcement, he founded a nonprofit youth wrestling organization.
Flaherty said Walter’s death has devastated the Virginia State Police community, but also strengthened officers’ resolve to work toward ending the violence in Richmond and beyond.
“It has strengthened us in so many ways, as tragic as it is,” Flaherty told reporters in Mosby Court Saturday.
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.
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. Walter routinely partnered with the Richmond Police Department on investigative and patrol operatives, police said.
Ball has an extensive 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 shooting occurred in Richmond’s most violent public housing complex, which has seen six homicides and 19 non-fatal shootings this year, Richmond Police Chief Alfred Durham said. Durham said police need the community’s help.
“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.
Keonna Williams lives in Mosby Court a few doors down from where she said Ball lived with his girlfriend. Williams didn’t know Ball well, but saw him regularly and said he seemed like a “decent person.” He was known in the community as “Wiz,” she said.
“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. She said she would occasionally see him outside playing with children and said he would sometimes buy snacks for local kids at the store.
Darlene Crutchfield said she was sitting on her porch in Mosby Court Friday night when she heard what she thought was a firecracker.
Crutchfield, whose 34-year-old son was fatally shot in the public housing complex in 2015, said came back outside when police arrived and saw Walter’s body on the ground. The image brought a flood of painful memories of her son, who was slain just steps away from where Walter was shot, she said.
“I just shook my head and said ‘not again’,” Crutchfield said.
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 trooper to be killed 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.