More details emerge in fatal shooting of NY trooper
Trooper Joel Davis was approaching the couple's home when Staff Sgt. Justin Walters shot him in the torso with a rifle, leaving him in a roadside ditch
Duty Death: Joel Davis - [New York, New York]
End of Service: 07/09/2017
By Chris Carola
THERESA, N.Y. — A state police trooper responding to reports of gunfire was shot to death by a soldier who had just killed his wife at their home near his Army base in northern New York, authorities said Monday.
Trooper Joel Davis was approaching the couple's home in rural Theresa, near the Canadian border, when Staff Sgt. Justin Walters shot him in the torso with a rifle, leaving him in a roadside ditch, according to police and court documents. Another trooper arrived and found Davis, 36, who died about an hour later at a hospital.
Walters' wife, Nichole Walters, was found dead in the driveway, with multiple gunshot wounds. A female friend of hers, who was living on the property, also was shot, suffering non-life-threatening injuries, police said.
Davis had been a state police trooper for four years, after 10 years as a county sheriff's deputy in the area.
"He truly did love being a law enforcement officer," family friend Chris Fletcher said. "One of his last texts to another one of his cousins was he couldn't believe he got paid to do what he does."
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said "the entire New York family grieves" for Davis. A married father of three teenagers, he was the commissioner of a youth baseball league in his tight-knit community.
"It's not just the police who suffer a loss like this," said state police Superintendent George P. Beach II, noting that signs have already sprung up around the area to pay tribute to Davis.
Justin Walters, 32, was clad only in shorts when he was brought to a town court around 4 a.m. Monday to be charged with murder, WWNY-TV reported. Ordered held without bail, he was scheduled to be re-arraigned late in the day, authorities said. A message left with the lawyer assigned to his case wasn't immediately returned.
A native of Zeeland, Michigan, Walters joined the Army in 2007 and did two one-year tours in Afghanistan, in 2009 and again from March 2011 to March 2012, Army officials said. Walters was stationed at Fort Drum, home of the 10th Mountain Division.
The sprawling post is home to about 15,000 soldiers who are among the most-deployed in the U.S. military. More than half the soldiers with families live off base in nearby towns in a region known for its harsh winters and farmland.
Fort Drum's senior commander, Maj. Gen. Walter E. Piatt, called the slain trooper a hero.
"It takes an uncommon valor to run toward acts of terrible violence, to sacrifice for the safety of strangers," Piatt said.
Cuomo, a Democrat, called Davis' death "yet another sad reminder of the risks law enforcement officers face each day." Davis was the second New York law enforcement officer killed on duty in less than a week. New York City police Officer Miosotis Familia was fatally shot last Wednesday by a man who was then killed by other officers.
The state police superintendent said Davis was wearing body armor, but the round hit him in his side, where he had no protection.
Beach said Walters gave no motive for the shootings.
Walters and his 27-year-old wife met around the time she finished high school in Mattydale, a community near Syracuse, said her hometown friend Jerry Mikels. He said Nichole Walters was devoted to her toddler-aged son and was always willing to help people.
"She got along with everybody," he said. "If she knew you needed help, she would help out. She was there for my wife when she had cancer."
Data on domestic violence among military couples varies widely. A 2010 federal Centers for Disease Control survey , prepared for the Defense Department, said domestic violence aimed at military wives occurs at a similar rate as it does to women in the general population, with about 30 percent of the wives having ever been physically attacked, raped, or stalked by an intimate partner.
But other studies on the percentage of women in military couples who've experienced domestic violence have given rates ranging from about 13 to 60 percent.
The disparities are partly due to differences in methodology, says Keith Klostermann, a psychology professor at Medaille College in Buffalo and an author of a 2012 academic journal article on domestic violence in the military. He suggests that whatever the differences in statistics, military life has some features — such as deployments and frequent moves — that can strain individuals and relationships.
"This is a huge issue, and it requires more attention," he says. "From a scientific perspective, we need to better understand this phenomenon and how best we can help these families."