By Craig Fox Watertown Daily Times
WATERTOWN, NY — Maj. Philip T. Rougeux is convinced that a young mother and two children are alive today solely because of the bravery that Trooper Joel R. Davis showed on the day he was shot and killed during a domestic incident in Theresa in July 2017.
Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo announced Wednesday that Trooper Davis, 36, of Evans Mills, was posthumously honored with the state Division of Criminal Justice Services’ Lifesaving Award.
Trooper Davis was killed on July 9, 2017 after he became the first police officer responding to investigate a report of shots fired at a County Route 46 residence.
When he arrived, Trooper Davis engaged a gunman as a woman and two children sought refuge in a nearby shed, recalled Major Rougeux, who serves as the Troop D commander.
“He was a true hero,” said Maj. Rougeux.
During a light rain Wednesday morning, Michael C. Green, executive deputy commissioner of the Division of Criminal Justice Services, presented the 2017 Lifesaving Award to Trooper Davis’ three children and other family members.
“It’s quite an honor,” his father, Randy, said afterward. “It’s all kind of overwhelming.”
About 30 state troopers attended the commemoration in front of the Troop D Zone 3 headquarters on Route 37. A granite monument honoring the slain trooper was unveiled during the memorial, with the words “Our Friend and Co-Worker. Always Remembered. Never Forgotten.” inscribed on the front.
During the memorial, Trooper Davis was described as a husband, father, son, brother, trooper, coach, mentor and friend.
Mr. Green said that the Governor’s Police Officer of the Year Award is presented to an officer or team of officers who perform an exceptional act of valor during a particular incident in which they saved a life or saved lives.
On that night, Trooper Davis sought to save three people knowing the risks he faced, Mr. Green said.
“He chose to get out of his car and walk towards danger and engaged in trying to save people’s lives,” he said.
A committee takes nominations from the state police superintendent, the state’s sheriffs’ and police chief associations and other police enforcement officials, Mr. Green, who serves as its chairman, said.
Last year, Trooper Davis was posthumously honored by the state police as Troop D Trooper of the Year.
While responding to the call, Trooper Davis was shot and killed in the driveway, allegedly by Fort Drum soldier Justin Walters, who is also accused of shooting and killing his wife, Nichole Walters.
Trooper Davis was struck by a .223-calliber round that penetrated an area of his chest not covered by his protective vest, fatally wounding him.
Rebecca Finkle, Mrs. Walters’ friend who was staying at the property, was shot in the back and has since recovered from the injuries.
Ms. Finkle’s son was at the residence during the shooting, as was Mrs. Walters’ 3½-year-old son, Axel.
The gunman surrendered to troopers who had subsequently arrived on the scene.
Walters, who remains jailed, is scheduled to go on trial in early 2019.
In its inaugural year, the lifesaving award was given last year to a state trooper helicopter pilot and co-pilot who braved strong and dangerous winds and rescued of a pair of young hikers who fell from the snow-covered summit of Algonquin Mountain in December 2016.