Flags in Delaware were lowered to half staff Thursday in honor of fallen state trooper Cpl. Stephen J. Ballard, who was gunned down in a Wawa parking lot Wednesday afternoon.
The 32-year-old husband and father was killed shortly after noon at a convenience store located on US Route 40 in Bear, Delaware.
"I stand before you with an aching heart … that aches for Ballard, his wife, his daughter, his family," said an emotional Gov. John Carney Thursday afternoon. "This is a time to mourn, to mourn and to lift up our own."
Ballard was described as a loyal and dedicated police officer who served more than eight years on the force. Several colleagues choked back tears during a news conference Thursday, touting the bravery and commitment Ballard showed during his time as an officer.
"This is a sad day for our state and for the Delaware State Police family," state police superintendent Col. Nathaniel McQueen said as Gov. John Carney stood at his side.
One man got out of the car and shot Ballard several times before running away, McQueen said at a Wednesday afternoon news conference. The other man was arrested at the scene.
A police procession was held early Wednesday evening as Ballard's body was taken from Christiana Hospital to the Medical Examiner's Office in Wilmington. Troopers carried a flag-draped coffin into the building.
Throughout the night, residents in the area dropped off candles and flowers at the Wawa to pay tribute to Ballard.
Ballard had been on the force for more than eight years, according to state police spokesman Sgt. Richard Bratz.
He was originally from Bowie, Maryland, and recently married to Louise. He leaves behind a wife and young daughter.
"We have lost another officer who dedicated his career to noble public service, Carney said. "He went to work every day putting his life on the line to protect the rest of us."
Investigators said the ordeal started when Ballard saw two suspicious-looking people sitting inside a red Dodge Charger at Wawa around 12:30 p.m. Police do not know what drew Ballard's attention to the vehicle.
He approached the men and a struggle ensured, police said. The passenger got out of the car and fired several shots at close range. Ballard was struck in the upper body.
He never had the chance to pull his weapon or return fire, authorities said.
The suspect fled to a home on the 500 block of St. Michaels Drive in the Brick Mill Farm Development in Middletown about 15 miles away. An hours-long standoff ended Thursday morning with police shooting the suspect.