WILMINGTON, Del. — A Delaware State Police trooper was gunned down in the parking lot of a Wawa in Bear shortly after noon ET Wednesday, and a suspect in the officer’s killing remained barricaded in a home north of Middletown early Thursday firing at officers surrounding it, said Nathaniel McQueen Jr., superintendent of the state police.
The fallen trooper was identified as Cpl. Stephen J. Ballard, 32, an 8½-year veteran of the Delaware State Police who was assigned to patrol at Troop 2 in Glasgow.
“This is a sad day for our state and Delaware State Police family,” McQueen said. “We ask that you keep the trooper’s family and the members of the Delaware State Police family in your prayers.”
Dozens of police converged on a home in the 500 block of St. Michaels Drive in the Brick Mill Farm development, north of Middletown, where the armed suspect was barricaded alone and occasionally fired shots at officers, said Master Cpl. Gary Fournier, a state police spokesman.
A Delaware State Police trooper was gunned down in the parking lot of a Bear Wawa shortly after noon on Wednesday, and a suspect in the officer’s killing remains barricaded in a home north of Middletown. The News Journal
Police maintained a perimeter around the home as they attempted to negotiate a “peaceful end” to the conflict, Fournier said. Shortly after 8 p.m., state police used an explosive breaching charge on the front door, but had yet to enter the house.
A Middletown neighbor who lives on the block identified for The News Journal the home where the shots were being fired, and county records indicate the property is owned by Burgon Sealy Sr. Although state officials would not release the suspect’s name, police did confirm that the suspect holed up in the home lives there with his family.
“The suspect has been firing shots at the police officers from the residence he lives in, and is currently holed up in the house,” Fournier said.
McQueen said the deceased trooper was responding to a “suspicious” vehicle at the Wawa on the 1600 block of Pulaski Highway, with two people inside.
“Shortly thereafter, trouble ensued,” McQueen said.
Police investigate at the scene after a state police officer was shot in the parking lot of a WaWa store on Pulaski Highway in Bear. (Photo: William Bretzger, The News Journal)
Kevin Lerner was having a bite when he witnessed the trooper approach a vehicle in the parking lot. He said the suspect pushed the trooper before running backward a short distance and opening fire.
“When he turned around, he spun around and had his gun already ready and he started shooting,” Lerner said. “That officer didn’t look like he was doing anything wrong, but just asking him for his (identification) or whatever. The guy was moving fast.”
One of the vehicle’s occupants exited the car and fired multiple times, striking the trooper, McQueen said. Some inside the store dove for cover while others ran outside to help the trooper, who later died at Christiana Hospital.
Police arrested one of the vehicle’s occupants at the Wawa, and investigators tracked the other man to the home north of Middletown.
Late in the afternoon, the trooper’s body was taken to the Medical Examiner’s Office for an autopsy. Police officers, firefighters and hospital personnel lined the initial route out of the hospital. The procession was led by a group of New Castle County police motorcycles, followed by the black forensic investigator vehicle that carried the body. That vehicle was flanked by four state police motorcycles. Interstate 95 and side roads were closed as the procession made its way to the Medical Examiner’s Office.
The body of Corporal Stephen Ballard arrived at the Delaware Medical Examiner’s office in Wilmington after the officer was shot at a Bear WaWa and died at Christiana Hospital on Wednesday afternoon. Ballard was 32 years old. John J. Jankowski Jr. & Kyle Grantham.
About the trooper
Cpl. Stephen J. Ballard joined the Delaware State Police after graduating from the academy in April 2009.
Ballard was recognized in 2011 for his involvement with Troop 4’s Explorer Post, which works with young men and women grades 9 and above who have an interest in law enforcement, according to state police.
He was also photographed at Law Enforcement Family and Friends Day in 2014 at Camp Barnes in Ocean View, according to the Cape Gazette.
Other officers killed in the line of duty
Lt. Steven Floyd, a Delaware Department of Correction officer, was the most recent law enforcement officer to die in the line of duty. He was killed during the violent uprising at the James T. Vaughn Correctional Center near Smyrna in February.
Since 2000, four other law enforcement officers have died in the line of duty in Delaware, according to Officer Down Memorial Page Inc., a non-profit organization dedicated to honoring America’s fallen law enforcement heroes:
• Lt. Joseph Lawrence Szczerba, of the New Castle County Police, who died Sept. 16, 2011.
• Patrolman Chad Ernest Spicer, of the Georgetown Police Department, who died Sept. 1, 2009.
• Cpl. Christopher Michael Shea, of the Delaware State Police, who died July 18, 2004.
• Cpl. Frances Marie Collender, of the Delaware State Police, who died Feb. 6, 2001.