DINWIDDIE, Va. —
A veteran Virginia State Police trooper killed by a shooter on Thursday is being remembered as a “gentle giant” who was quick to help others and was well known to those in the community where he had worked for more than 20 years.
Master Trooper Junius A. Walker, 63, was patrolling in Dinwiddie County Thursday when he spotted a black sedan on the side of Interstate 85 and pulled alongside it to check on the driver. State police spokeswoman Corinne Geller said the driver opened fire on Walker, and it is believed that his foot hit the gas causing his car to lunge forward and run off the road into the woods. A passer-by called 911, and a trooper who responded saw a male standing beside Walker’s car shooting into it.
As the trooper fired at the suspect, he fled on foot into the woods. Officers found the suspect, Russell E. Brown, hiding at a business about a half-mile from where Walker was shot about 30 minutes later.
Brown, 28, of Chesterfield, was charged with capital murder of a police officer, attempted capital murder of a police officer and two felony firearms counts. He is being held without bond at the Meherrin River Regional Jail in Alberta. It was unclear if Brown had an attorney.
Sometime after the shooting, heat from Walker’s car engine ignited brush and his car caught on fire, Geller said. Two troopers pulled him from the car, but he had suffered multiple gun shots and died at the scene.
Walker did not have an in-car camera, Geller said.
Geller, who has been with the department for 14 years, said she knew Walker — a 35-year state police veteran — “quite well.” She choked up as she announced his death to reporters.
“He was a great man, not only in size but personality and his character, and his dedication to serving the county of Dinwiddie and . the commonwealth,” Geller said near the scene. “He was well-known in this community and well-loved.”
Geller later told the Richmond Times-Dispatch Walker was a “gentle giant” and a mentor to many younger troopers.
“A lot of guys looked up to him and thought the world of him,” she said.
Walker had patrolled that area of Dinwiddie County, Petersburg and surrounding communities since 1986.
Lisa Woodard, whose family runs a body and paint shop in the area, described Walker as a community stalwart whose kindness and presence was always “a comfort.”
“He would stop by just to see how we were doing, just to talk and see if everything was OK,” she told the newspaper. “He was like that with everyone.”
Will Parham, who lived near Walker for 20 years, described him as a “good guy” and a “good trooper.” Parham, a truck driver, remembers running low on fuel one day as he approached Dewitt. He said Walker stopped traffic so he could get across the road and not get stranded without fuel.
“Mr. Walker always took time to stop and talk and would help everybody,” Parham said.
Dana Schrad, executive director of the Virginia Association of Chiefs of Police, said Walker was a frequent lecturer at seminars about traffic safety.
“He was a wonderful presence known to a lot of people,” she said. “We have lost one of the best.”
Gov. Bob McDonnell expressed condolences to Walker’s wife, two daughters and the rest of his family, friends and colleagues.
“Virginia has lost a brave public servant and hero,” McDonnell said.
Col. W. Steven Flaherty, the state police superintendent, said Walker was a highly-respected member of the force, “which has made his shocking death especially hard on the Virginia State Police family.”
Walker is the 59th member of the State Police killed in the line of duty in its 81-year history.
Trooper Andrew Fox was struck and killed in October while directing traffic for the State Fair of Virginia. A Doswell woman who accidentally ran over Fox was convicted of reckless driving last month and given a 12-month suspended term.
It’s been more than 20 years since a trooper was killed in an armed confrontation. Trooper Jose M. Cavazos, 50, was fatally shot during a traffic stop in Prince William County on Feb. 23, 1993. A passenger in the vehicle Cavazos had stopped opened fire, striking him nine times. The shooter was sentenced to death and executed in 2000.