FORT DRUM, N.Y. >> A New York state trooper killed in the line of duty was recalled at his funeral today as a hero who protected his community by running toward gunfire.
New York State Police Superintendent George Beach praised the character of Joel Davis at an Army base in northern New York where Gov. Andrew Cuomo and other dignitaries saw hundreds of state troopers move hats from heads to hearts as they passed the casket of their fallen brother.
Beach said Davis was a “great trooper” who served “fairly, honorably and with dignity.”
“He ran toward gunfire to protect the innocent and to prevent further bloodshed,” Beach said. “He performed his duties. That is a trooper. That is a hero. That is bravery.”
The 36-year-old father of three was shot once in the torso July 9 after getting out of his trooper car, which he had parked about 75 feet from the driveway of a couple living on a property where there was a report of shots fired.
Authorities say Staff St. Justin Walters, a Fort Drum soldier who lived on the property with his wife Nichole, fired the shot. Police said Walters had shot Nichole to death just before Davis arrived.
Davis wore body armor but the round hit him in the side where there was no protection, police said. He died about an hour later at the hospital in nearby Watertown, where his brother is a member of the city’s police department.
Other troopers arriving on the scene took Walters into custody after he dropped the weapon he used to shoot Davis, police said. His 27-year-old wife was found dead in the driveway after being shot multiple times, authorities said.
Justin Walters, originally from Zeeland, Michigan, served two combat tours in Afghanistan, Fort Drum officials said. He had served in the 10th Mountain Division since joining the Army in 2007.
MLive.com, a Michigan news outlet, reported earlier this week that Walters plotted to shoot up his Michigan middle school while a teenager. The report said Walters and a classmate were accused of compiling a “die or dead list” and planning to shoot people before killing themselves. Another classmate tipped off police to the 1999 plot.
Walters pleaded guilty in family court to conspiracy to carry a dangerous weapon, according to reporting at the time by the Grand Rapids Press.
The Davis funeral was held in Fort Drum’s sports complex to accommodate a crowd of thousands of law enforcement officers from the U.S. and Canada.
Christopher Carrara, chaplain of the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office, said he watched Sunday night as a hospital hallway swelled with officers pouring in to support the family and be by Davis’ side after the shooting.
“From that moment, from the scene, to this very moment almost a week later, Joel has not been alone day and night,” Carrara said.