Slain Del. Trooper, Former CAP Cadet, Recalled As Model Leader
Former Squadron Commander: As Teen, Ballard 'Seemed Far More Mature Than His Years'
Members of Civil Air Patrol’s National Capital Wing are remembering one of their own today.
Delaware State Police Cpl. Stephen J. Ballard, who served as a CAP cadet in the wing’s Andrews Composite Squadron from 1998-2006, was gunned down Wednesday while responding to a “suspicious” vehicle outside a convenience store in Middletown.
His alleged killer was shot dead early this morning, after barricading himself in a home north of town. Another suspect in the vehicle was arrested at the scene of the shooting.
A Bowie, Maryland, native, Ballard, 32, had been on the force for more than eight years, and served in Troop 2, according to state police spokesman Sgt. Richard Bratz.
“He leaves behind his wife, Louise, a daughter, and a loving family and scores of loyal colleagues,” said Delaware Gov. John Carney at a news conference on Thursday.
Friends remember former Bowie HS grad&DE State Trooper Cpl. Stephen Ballard as a born leader,kind man. We speak w his longtime mentor @ 5:30 pic.twitter.com/q4c6q2w4Jv— Meagan Fitzgerald (@MeaganNBCDC) April 27, 2017
CAP Lt. Col. Edward Arias, now commander of the Hawaii Wing’s West Oahu Composite Squadron, made Ballard his cadet commander when he took over command of the Andrews unit in 2002. “I identified him as someone I needed to lead,” especially in taking over what was then a troubled squadron, Arias said.
“He was a very sharp cadet …one of the most mature cadets I’ve ever had” in 21 years of CAP service in four wings, Arias said.
“At 16, 17 he seemed far more mature than his years,” he said – one of the reasons the two became, and remained, personal friends. The two stayed in touch even after Arias transferred to Hawaii in 2005.
A special agent in the FBI then and now, Arias speculates that he’s the reason Ballard went into law enforcement at Delaware State University, where he was originally enrolled in Air Force ROTC.
Both as a cadet and as an adult afterward, “I never saw him get upset,” his former commander said. “He was the most even-tempered guy you could ever meet.
“They don’t make them like that anymore,” Arias said.
Chaplain Lt. Col. James Lowther, now chaplain of the National Capital Wing, served in that capacity with the Andrews squadron while Ballard was a cadet. “Cadet Ballard was diligent to prepare himself for being a responsible adult,” Lowther said. “He participated in the character development program and obviously took his own moral development seriously.
“I was honored to be his chaplain and deeply saddened at his demise, especially at so young an age. He was a credit to the CAP, his family, society and the entire nation. He will be sorely missed,” he said.
Lt. Col. Bruce Hack, who’s now the Andrews squadron deputy commander for seniors, served in the unit as a cadet with Ballard. He recalled the fallen trooper as a very effective cadet commander who worked hard to build up the cadet corps.
Ballard strove to find out what each cadet was interested in, Hack said, and he led his fellow cadets on numerous excursions to historic sites throughout Prince George’s County, where the squadron is located.
Hack recalled serving with Ballard during search and rescue and emergency services exercises, as well as in color guard. The two cadets and their color guard colleagues were honored to perform at the White House for a military retirement as well as for a massing of the colors at the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis.
“He was very fair and compassionate and dedicate to being a member of CAP and a member of the community and being there to help,” Hack said.
“Any time there was a chance to get CAP out there … he was definitely one of the ones who made a good impression. In interactions with the public, he was always respectful. If someone came up and tried to ruffle his feathers, he was always calm and cool-headed,” he said.
As cadets the two often joked about entering the military directly out of high school, but instead they wound up attending college. After graduation, Hack joined the U.S. Air Force.
“I went one way in serving the country and he went another way,” Hack said.
He had no doubt that, as a law enforcement officer, Ballard “lived and breathed every principle of being a trooper and everything he learned from being a CAP cadet.”
Lt. Col. James Brogan, now chief of staff for the Nebraska Wing, previously served in the Andrews squadron.
“Stephen was among the first cadets I had the privilege to serve as a leadership officer,” Brogan recalled. “His quiet demeanor, steadfast determination and unquestionable integrity were all part of his character... which cannot be faked.
“A man whose actions were consistent with his word, Stephen set an example to all around him and inspires us to be and do more in our communities. His legacy can be seen in the love shared across this nation and among those of us who had the privilege to know him. It's more than accurate to say that I learned more from Stephen than I could have ever imparted to him,” Brogan said.
Carney ordered all flags to be flown at half-staff today in memory of the fallen trooper.
“Cpl. Ballard went to work every day putting his life on the line to protect the rest of us,” said Carney. “My heart is with Cpl. Ballard's family today and all the officers on his shift and the Delaware State Police who serve beside him.”