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HOLMBERG: Close-knit Va. State Police family takes a hit with the slaying of trooper

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DINWIDDIE COUNTY, Va. (WTVR) - Virginia state troopers are a different breed. More like military – like the Marine Corps, really – than a police force.

And it’s a law enforcement agency with no boundaries inside the state, and thus, many extra responsibilities.

That’s why they’re like family. A family they don’t leave. Once a trooper, always a trooper. Semper Fi.

That’s why Master Trooper Junius Walker, who was shot to death on Interstate 85 in Dinwiddie County Thursday, was still working at age 63.

“I think it goes back to early on, when the State Police Academy was started in the late ‘40s and early ‘50s,” said retired Virginia State Police Superintendent Gerald Massengill,  Walker’s friend and former supervisor. “The state police training is such that once someone has been through the state police academy, there’s a special relationship that lasts a lifetime.”

Walker had recently been talking seriously about retiring, Massengill said. The time had finally come.

“If you want to talk about a public servant,” he added, “that was J.A. Walker. Filled with compassion, he knew when get the pistol out and when to give someone a break. Big in stature, and big in heart.”

Walker, he said, “exuded professionalism” and “demanded respect,” but he also had a great sense of humor.

The VSP’s  heavy-duty training and professionalism have largely kept them  safe, but they’ve still lost plenty in the family, most of them struck by vehicles on the road they patrol.

Just five months ago, Trooper Andrew Fox was struck and fatally injured while directing traffic outside of the Virginia State Fair.

And there have been, on average, one trooper killed in crashes or vehicle strikes every other year.

But it’s been 20 years since the last trooper was shot and killed.

Trooper Jose Cavazos was shot in the chest six times by a speeding motorist in a stolen car on February 24, 1993. The killer, Lonnie Weeks, asked God to bless the Cavazos family just before he was executed by lethal injection 13 years ago.

Another trooper died from gunshot wounds since then, in 1995, but Henry Noel Harmon had been shot in the neck by a man he arrested nearly 30 years earlier and had been left a quadriplegic.

The worst run of recent murders came between 1984 and 1987, when five troopers were slain.

Thursday’s killing is a shocker, one that the entire, close-knit Virginia State Police family is feeling, bless their hearts.

That’s my take, please leave yours here on