ACCOKEEK, Md. - "It hurts. I love my son and the only time I'll see him now is in my dreams or when I look at his pictures. But he will always be remembered."
Forever burned in Kevin Ballard's heart is his son - Delaware State Police Cpl. Stephen Ballard. Forever burned in his memory is the moment he received the call law enforcement families always fear and hope to never get.
"She said that Stephen was involved in a shooting and it doesn't look good - he's in grave condition," Ballard recalled. "And I started crying. She put the phone and said, 'Here, he can hear you.' She put me on speaker and she put the phone next to his head and I was telling him how much I love him, I'm on my way, you can't leave me, you're all I have. I just told her I'm on my way."
After talking to his son, the trooper's father did everything he could to get from Maryland to Delaware. Despite an escort from Prince George's County police and a helicopter provided by Delaware State Police, Kevin Ballard did not make it in time.
Authorities in Delaware said Cpl. Ballard stopped a suspicious car on Wednesday for possible drug involvement. But rather than stepping out of the car, the passenger, identified as 26-year-old Burgon Sealy Jr., allegedly pulled out a gun, chased the trooper in the parking lot of a Wawa convenience store and then opened fire at close range.
Ballard died at the hospital.
"That's our only son and he is not going to be able to grow up to have more children, grandkids," said his father. "He lost his life doing what he loves to do."
The suspect fled the area and later barricaded himself inside a home. During the hours-long standoff, officers set off explosives, evacuated neighbors and locked down schools. Eventually, Sealy emerged from the house and started firing at officers. He was shot dead by police.
Stephen Ballard was an eight-year veteran with Delaware State Police. He grew up in Bowie, Maryland and went to Bowie State University. Stephen is survived by his wife and 4-year-old stepdaughter.
The only thing getting the family through this extremely rough time is remembering the infectious smile Stephen was known for. It was a big wide grin he always wore no matter how tough things got. The family is also receiving the brotherhood and love from law enforcement.
"Everywhere we went at the memorial where he was shot at, people that I don't even know [were] hugging us and hugged me, and it just tears you up inside because an innocent man lost his life doing what he loved to do - helped people," said Kevin Ballard.
A memorial fund has been set up to help Ballard's family. The trooper's funeral is planned for next Friday in Delaware.