Hundreds of people gathered Monday morning for a memorial ceremony outside the Delaware Wawa store where a state police trooper was gunned down last week.
It’s been a tough week for residents near the Bear Wawa store where Corporal Stephen Ballard was shot while investigating a suspicious vehicle Wednesday.
Monday morning, hundreds of community members joined members of the Delaware State Police and other law enforcement agencies to remember Cpl. Ballard at the spot where he was shot.
“The community has really, really come together. It’s just been really sad, but to be here today to be involved in all of this,” said Patricia Barker who lives nearby. “It’s hard not to cry. It’s hard to hold back tears, he was a great officer.”
The ceremony opened with a moment of silence to remember Cpl. Ballard. The ceremony was held in the parking lot of the store on Pulaski Highway in Bear. The wall next to the spot where Ballard was shot is now covered with dozens and dozens of balloons, plus flowers and other items that have been dropped off by area residents to honor Ballard. Also lining the walls are poster board filled with notes of condolences.
Amy Shaw of Wallingford, Pa. drove down to the Delaware store to be at Monday’s ceremony and to add her own note of condolences to the wall. “I’m just hoping that this can sort of bring everybody together,” Shaw said. “You see people of all races here which I think is really important.”
The outpouring of support for the police following the Ballard’s death is a comfort for Delaware State Police Troop 2 commander Jason Sapp. “The women and men led by Col. Nathaniel McQueen may have had our knees buckled this past week, but rest assured, we never fell to those knees. We’re still standing, and we will continue to stand until the end of time.”
He asked those in attendance to form an “okay” sign with their thumb and forefingers as a way to show their support for law enforcement. “Any time you see a first responder, whether it be in Rodney Square, on the boardwalk in Rehoboth, or at the state fair this summer, take a fleeting moment to shoot them an okay,” Sapp said. “You may or may not get one back depending on what they’re in the midst of, but at least they’ll know you have their back and that just as importantly, you remember Stephen’s sacrifice.”
Wawa CEO Chris Gheysens announced that Wawa customers have donated more than $188,000 to Cpl. Ballard’s family since Friday. Wawa stores will continue to collect donations through Friday, May 5. Wawa is also donating $100,000.
A public visitation followed by a funeral service will be held Friday morning at the Chase Center in Wilmington. Ballard also will be honored during the annual Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Service at Legislative Hall in Dover on Wednesday at noon.