Trooper Junius A. Walker
Trooper Junius A. Walker
Photo credit: Virginia State Police
DINWIDDIE, Va. -- A Chesterfield man faces capital murder charges in connection to the Thursday slaying of a veteran Virginia State Police trooper who many in Dinwiddie County remember as a gentle giant
Dinwiddie County Commonwealth's Attorney Lisa Caruso said she plans to seek the death penalty against Russell E. Brown, 28. "I believe this to be a case in which we should seek the death penalty," Caruso said.
Caruso added that Brown, who appeared in court yesterday for an arraignment hearing, did not object to being put to death.
"I'm fine with being executed," Brown said, according to Caruso.
Brown has been charged with one count of capital murder of a police officer, two counts of using a firearm in the commission of a felony and one count of attempted capital murder of a police officer. He is being held without bond at the Meherrin River Regional Jail in Alberta.
Master State Trooper Junius A. Walker, 63, was patrolling Dinwiddie County on Thursday when he saw a black sedan parked on the side of Interstate 85. Walker pulled alongside the vehicle to check on the driver.
Corinne Geller, Virginia State Police spokeswoman, said that Brown open fired on Walker. It is believed that Walker's foot hit the gas pedal after being fired on, causing the car to lurch forward and run off the road into the woods, Geller added.
It is not Brown's first encounter with the law. Brown was convicted of obstructing justice in Richmond in 2007. Charges for carrying a concealed weapon and possession of marijuana in the same year were eventually withdrawn.
A passing motorist called 911 at 1:20 p.m. Thursday to report a trooper in distress, according to authorities. A responding trooper who arrived on the scene minutes later spotted a lone gunman shooting a weapon into Walker's patrol car. The responding trooper opened fire at the gunman, who fled into the wooded area away from the interstate, according to police.
The trooper did not pursue the suspect but immediately attended to Walker. Two troopers pulled Walker from the patrol car but he had suffered from multiple gun shot wounds and died at the scene. Heat from Walker's car engine ignited brush from the wooded area and the car caught on fire, Geller said.
Dinwiddie deputies took Brown into custody at 1:58 p.m. about half a mile away at a wrecker business. An employee at the business altered police after noticing that Brown was attempting to hide behind vehicles.
Police recovered a discarded weapon about half a mile away from the crime scene in the woods, and are still investigating whether it is the same weapon used to shoot Walker.
Thursday was supposed to be one of the last work days for the 35-year seasoned trooper. Walker had turned in his retirement papers not long ago, according to Dinwiddie County Administrator Kevin Massengill.
He had joined the department in 1973, and patrolled Dinwiddie since 1986.
"He was a gentle giant, as I liked to call him. He was quiet, but when he spoke, you listened," said Major William Knott of the Dinwiddie County Sheriffs Office. "I was asked how I remember him, but not many didn't know him or will not remember him."
Geller became visibly distraught as she delivered the news of Walker's death. Geller had personally known Walker throughout her time on the police force, she said.
Even when Massengill was little, Walker's large stature did not scare him. He remembered the trooper mostly for his kindness.
That compassion was evident when one of Massengill's family members was involved in a car accident, Massengill said.
"He had a caring approach and took his job as a police officer very seriously. He was stern when he needed to be, but was really just extremely friendly," Massengill said.
The soft-spoken man with a large stature also held a special place in the heart of the former State Police superintendent,
W. Gerald Massengill, a retired colonel and former head of the State Police, was Walker's supervisor when Walker first began serving in Dinwiddie. It was only last year that the former head of the State Police, a Dinwiddie resident, presented Walker with an award from the Sutherland Ruritan Club for his longtime service. Walker was noted for his compassion, steadiness and professionalism, which were the same attributes he carried when out on pursuits, the former State Police superintendent said.
"He was a very large man, and to look at him in that uniform, you could tell that he had a lot of authority and command, but when you got to know him, and you saw the way he carried out his duties, you saw that he was a true public servant. He knew how to solve a problem without creating a problem," Massengill said.
The Brunswick County native loved living in a rural area and was comfortable with patrolling the roads, never desiring to move up in the ranks, Massengill said.
Walker is survived by his wife and two adult daughters. One of his daughters currently serves in law enforcement and was previously a Dinwiddie County sheriff's deputy.
"I know that J.A. was very proud of Clarissa for being in law enforcement. He was proud of both of his girls," Nancy Mayo, Walker's neighbor, said.
Members of both the State Police and the Dinwiddie Sheriff's Department continue to mourn the death of one of their own.
"For 35 years he served us proud as a mentor to multitudes of new troopers ... he was and always will be one of Virginia's finest," Col. W. Steven Flaherty, Virginia State Police superintendent, said in a statement.
Dinwiddie Sheriff D.T. "Duck" Adams has received calls as far away as Orange County and southwestern Virginia inquiring about Walker's family.
Those in Washington - including U.S. Sen. Tim Kaine, U.S. Sen. Mark Warner and U.S. Rep. Randy Forbes - have also expressed their condolences.
"Virginia's public safety professionals are on the front lines every day protecting their fellow citizens from harm and pursuing those individuals whose actions put others in danger," Gov. Bob McDonnell said in a statement. "These men and women are heroes who place their lives on the line to protect their fellow Virginians."
Brown's family members told Richmond television station WWBT that Brown had been under pressure because of unemployment, eviction, the death of his mother, unmanageable child support obligations and a dispute over custody and visitation rights involving his 7-year-old twins, who live in another state.
"That's not my brother. I have known him all my life and he's not that type of person to just go out and cold-bloodedly shoot someone or anyone," said Michelle Brown, Russell Brown's sister. "I do think that he had a mental breakdown and I just think that it was so much pressure as far as his kids not being in his life."
Chesterfield Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court records showed that Brown owed more than $35,000 in child support as of Oct. 31, 2012. He had been ordered to pay $906 a month to the mother of the twins. A civil trial for failing to pay child support was set for April 5 and a pre-trial hearing was scheduled for March 14.
He was found guilty for a variety of traffic charges in Chesterfield County. According to court records, Brown was found guilty of driving without a license as well as having an expired registration after he failed to show up for the court in November 2012.
Walker's death is the 59th line-of-duty death for the Virginia State Police in its 81-year history. The department lost Trooper Andrew D. Fox on Oct. 5, 2012 in Hanover County when he was struck by a vehicle while directing traffic. It has been 20 years since a trooper was killed in an armed conflict, according to the state police website.
"I've known him my whole career. He was a mountain of a man and he would give you the shirt off his back. It is just a sad day," Sheriff D.T. "Duck" Adams said.
- The Associated Press contributed to this report.
- Vanessa Remmers can be reached at 804-722-5155 or firstname.lastname@example.org