At calling hours, thousands mourn slain state trooper

Family members load onto shuttle busses at Indian River High School to attend the calling hours for fallen state Trooper Joel Davis on Friday at Fort Drum. (Photo provided — Daytona Niles, Watertown Daily Times)

PHILADELPHIA, N.Y. — As she prepared to join the large crowds at Fort Drum to honor fallen state police Trooper Joel Davis, Jessica Schell recalled hearing gunshots Sunday night, only a quarter-mile from her Theresa home.

“I saw the cops go by,” she said. “I knew something was wrong.”

Schell, who shares an aunt with Davis by marriage, said the outcome was “beyond belief.” Davis had lost his life, along with Nichole Walters, wife of alleged gunman Justin Walters.

“It’s sadness,” she said. “It’s a small, quiet town. Now you’ve got to hold your babies closer, even tighter.”

On Friday afternoon, Schell boarded a bus at Indian River High School, which would take her and dozens of other mourners to Fort Drum for calling hours for the fallen trooper.

Trooper Joel Davis (Photo provided by New York State Police)

“It’s devastating,” Schell said. “It’s like a nightmare.”

Estimates going into the day suggested hundreds, if not thousands, of local residents and law enforcement were expected for calling hours at the post’s Magrath Sports Complex.

Others who lived in Theresa expressed shock to have the incident in their community.

“It’s enormous sadness,” said George Bosworth, of Theresa. “We’re not used to it here.”

Bosworth and his wife, Janice, said they had interacted with the trooper on a couple of occasions near their home, on the other side of the village from where the shooting took place on county Route 46.

Justin Walters

“It was shocking it was so close,” Janice Bosworth said.

The pair brought their children Anastasia, 3, and Elliott, 2, to the calling hours to show them the importance of paying respect.

“They can understand what’s going on, even at a young age,” George Bosworth said.

Chris Wainwright, a member of the Glen Park Fire Department, said he knew Davis from being an umpire in the youth baseball league in which the trooper served as commissioner.

The two also interacted at crime and fire scenes.

“We’re all in the same business,” Wainwright said. “When one dies, we all come out to support.”

Wainwright said when he first heard about the shooting, he became worried that Davis was the one involved.

“It’s hard when it’s someone in the brotherhood,” he said. “It’s harder when it’s someone you know.”

Wainwright said he felt for both Davis’ children and the young child of Nichole Walters, who also died in Sunday’s shooting allegedly committed by Justin Walters, her husband.

“The kids are the true victims here,” he said. “It’s sad all around.”

The pain of Davis’ death stretched all the way to California.

Wilfredo Williams, who had classes and played basketball with the trooper at Indian River High School, said he first saw Facebook posts about the incident Sunday night, as details slowly emerged about what happened.

“When they told me it was Joel, my heart dropped,” Williams said.

Williams, who performed with his band at ESPN’s ESPY Awards on Wednesday, assembled people together for a photo paying tribute to Davis.

“I wanted to show how special he was to me, and how a loss like that affects so many people,” he said. “I saw the love that the community shared for him, and that touched me.”

A funeral for Davis is scheduled for 1 p.m. Saturday at Fort Drum’s Magrath Sports Complex. Those attending the funeral must enter through the 45th Infantry Gate on Route 26 of Fort Drum. The gate will open at 9 a.m. Saturday.

There will be special signage from Interstates 81 and 781, Route 11 and Route 3 directing traffic to the gate.

After the funeral, a procession of vehicles will travel to Watertown, entering at Mill Street. It will then travel around the north side of Public Square and then head up Washington Street en route to Brookside Cemetery.