Slain Virginia drug enforcement officer called “Superman”

RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — A Virginia State Police special agent fatally shot by a felon in a Richmond public housing complex is being remembered as a man dedicated to improving the lives of children.

Michael T. Walter, 45, died early Saturday, hours after being shot while patrolling in the Mosby Court complex, which has had six homicides and 19 nonfatal shootings this year alone.

“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 2015.

The death of the former Marine and father of three also shocked the central Virginia community of Powhatan, where Walter was well known for the youth wrestling organization he founded.

Steven Stone, who coached with Walter, described him as an “irreplaceable” father figure and a believer in second chances. He wanted to make the sport available to kids of all economic backgrounds, Stone said, recalling how excited Walter was when he secured a grant that enabled lower- income kids to wrestle.

“We never thought that Mike of all people, that this would happen to him,” Stone said Sunday. “You would think he was Superman.”

The Philadelphia native had been promoted to special agent in 2010 and was working in drug enforcement in the state Bureau of Criminal Investigation’s Richmond field office. Walter was part of a joint initiative task force with Richmond City Police to stop the violence plaguing the Mosby neighborhood.

Virginia State Police Col. Steven Flaherty said Walter was part of a team that was trying to make a positive impact in the neighborhood. He said Walter was passionate about public safety and about serving the community.

“But he was also known for the commitment of bettering the lives of the local youth,” Flaherty said.

He is survived by a wife and two sons — ages 14 and 9 — and a 6-year-old daughter, Flaherty said.

Walter was shot Friday night while patrolling with a City of Richmond police officer. They spotted a car pull up to a curb and pulled in behind it. The Richmond officer went to speak to the driver, while Walter approached the passenger side. A single shot rang out, and Travis Ball took off running, prompting an overnight manhunt by eight local, state and federal law enforcement agencies.

The Richmond officer was not injured, police said. The car’s driver was detained. A handgun was recovered at the scene.

Ball, who is black, was arrested Saturday in Virginia’s Northern Neck region about an hour after the white officer’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. His lengthy record includes convictions for assault and battery, cruelty to animals, unauthorized use of a vehicle and violating his probation, court records show.

Walter’s death hit the central Virginia wrestling community hard.

More than six years ago Walter and his wife started a nonprofit to serve disadvantaged youth through a youth wrestling program, called the Powhatan Youth Wrestling and Community Development Corporation, in the community where they lived in Powhatan County.

For Walter it was all about mentoring the kids and fostering their talents through physically fitness and sportsmanship, Flaherty said. “It wasn’t about profit … It was all about making a difference to disadvantaged youth.”

Rob McMillin fought back tears as he recalled how Walter helped his legally deaf son with the sport: “Mike took him under his wing. He devoted the time and effort to come up with their own sign language and made him just a tremendous wrestler,” McMillin told WWBT-TV (http://bit.ly/2qt1tRx )

Adam Moss’ son also wrestled for Walter. He said the man transformed his community and the kids he coached.

“The hard part about this whole thing is, there’s been a story to tell a long time about what he’s done in the community, and it’s just sad that it took this to tell the story,” he said.

Keonna Williams lives a few doors down from where Ball lived with his girlfriend, she said. She said she didn’t know Ball well, but he seemed like a “decent person.” Known in the complex as “Wiz,” he would play with children and sometimes buy snacks for kids at the local 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 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. Her son 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.

The last Virginia trooper killed in the line of duty was Chad Dermyer, who was shot by a gunman at a Greyhound bus station while police were holding a counterterrorism training exercise last year. The gunman was killed by two other state troopers after he opened fire.

WTOP’s Kathy Stewart contributed to this report.

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Follow Alanna Durkin Richer at http://twitter.com/aedurkinricher. Read more of her work at http://apne.ws/2hIhzDb

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