Students pay tribute to officer killed in line of duty
Keene Elementary fourthgraders Ariana Hart, Ava Haynes and Marissa Robinson felt sad and disappointed when they heard what happened to Delaware State Police Cpl. Stephen J. Ballard, who was gunned down April 26 in a Wawa parking lot near Bear.
“He wasn’t doing anything, just working,” Hart said.
Ballard was approaching a suspicious vehicle when the passenger got out and began firing at him. He fell to the ground after being hit and the shooter continued to fire rounds before fleeing to his family’s Middletownarea home.
The shooter, identified as 26-year-old Burgon Sealy Jr., was killed by police 21 hours after emerging from the barricaded home. Police used explosive charges to break down the windows and doors and an armored vehicle to rip siding off the structure.
Haynes, Hart and Robinson said their hearts ached for the fallen officer’s family, but after placing a flower and handwritten card on his memorial on April 28, they felt a little bit better.
“I feel helpful and it makes me feel less sad,” Haynes said.
“In my card I told him, ‘You saved my life and everybody else’s,’” Robinson added. “He worked there for 8 years, so he risked his life to keep people safe for 8 years.”
The girls joined more than 600 of their classmates in walking over to Delaware State Police Troop 2 station to pay their respects to Ballard and the rest of the department, who lined up to hug students and shake their hands. The station is located next to Keene Elementary on Lagrange Avenue off Pulaski Highway in Glasgow.
Principal Tara Boletti and Christine McCarl, a paraprofessional and president of the PTA, said the event was put together to show the police department that Keene is a caring neighbor. The students placed more than 600 flowers, most of which were donated by Breger Flowers in Wilmington, on Ballard’s memorial.
“It’s important to teach our kids to give back to the community, and the police do a lot in our community,” McCarl said.
Boletti said she’s amazed by the compassion and empathy the students were showing not only the officers, but also each other.
“Just putting their arms around one another, it’s been incredible to witness,” she said.
DSP spokesman Master Cpl. Jeffrey Hale said the department is grateful that Keene decided to reach out during what he described as a “tragic time.”
“We’re hurting as a division right now,” he said. “The outpouring of support from the community, the school here and complete strangers has been overwhelming.”
Hale said Ballard was just doing his job and wasn’t someone who sought recognition for his work.
“He was a great person who was down to earth, but I know this would mean the world to him,” he said.
On Monday, students and staff members at Oberle Elementary School in Bear gathered in the school parking lot for their own tribute to Ballard.
After the students and teachers arranged themselves in the shape of a heart, a teacher used a drone to photograph the formation from above. Students later delivered the video from the event and handmade cards to troopers at Troop 2.
Hundreds of students at Keene Elementary School placed flowers and handmade cards on Delaware State Police Cpl. Stephen J. Ballard’s memorial on April 28. Ballard died April 26 after being shot at a Bear-area Wawa.
A Delaware State Police officer hugs a Keene Elementary School student after the students placed flowers and cards on Cpl. Stephen J. Ballard’s memorial.