A state police trooper and a 27-year-old woman were killed Sunday night as part of an apparent domestic violence incident in Jefferson County. Gov. Andrew Cuomo has ordered flags on state buildings flown at half-mast in honor of Trooper Joel Davis.
Davis was responding to a domestic violence incident in the town of Theresa, northeast of Watertown. Officials say Nichole Walters was found dead at the scene. A suspect is in custody.
Domestic violence call
State police say at around 8 p.m. Sunday night, Davis responded to a domestic violence call in Jefferson County. While approaching the residence, he was shot once with a rifle and killed.
Davis was 36 years old and lived in Evans Mills. He is survived by his wife and three children.
Officials say the alleged shooter was 32-year-old Justin Walters, an active duty Army infantryman stationed at Fort Drum.
Woman found dead at the scene
Police also found Nichole Walters dead at the scene. According to WWNY-TV, another woman living on the property was also shot, but expected to survive her injuries.
Justin Walters later surrendered to other state troopers without incident.
In a statement issued early Monday morning, Cuomo said "the entire New York family grieves today for Trooper Joel Davis."
Cuomo described Davis' death as "yet another sad reminder of the risks law enforcement officers face each day in order to protect our communities. I ask all New Yorkers to keep Trooper Davis' family, loved ones and colleagues in the state police in their prayers."
The commanding general of Fort Drum, Maj. Gen. Walter Piatt, called Davis "a hero."
"It takes uncommon valor to run toward acts of terrible violence, to sacrifice for the safety of strangers," Piatt said. "The deaths of a young mother and this brave officer are a terrible tragedy and we are deeply affected by their loss."
"I am deeply saddened to learn that New York has lost another brave member of our law enforcement community," said Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie. "This morning, Trooper Joel Davis was shot and killed while responding to a domestic dispute in Jefferson County. I join his family, friends and colleagues in mourning this senseless and tragic loss of life."
An investigation begins
Justin Walters appeared in court in the town of LeRay early Monday morning and is due for a second hearing at 5 p.m. He has been charged with first-degree murder in the death of Davis and second-degree murder in the death of Nichole Walters.
According to Fort Drum Public Affairs Director Julie Halpin, Justin Walters has been posted at Fort Drum since he joined the Army in 2007. Walters served on two year-long deployments to Afghanistan in 2009 and 2011, receiving nearly a dozen medals and commendations over the course of his military career.
Halpin declined to answer questions about whether Walters had a disciplinary record in the Army. She said those questions will be part of the investigation led by New York State Police, with assistance from the Army's Criminal Investigation Command.
Walters has no record of misdemeanor or felony charges in the state court system.
According to the Watertown Daily Times newspaper, a young child living at the residence where the shooting took place is now being cared for by Jefferson County Child Protective Services.