San Diego Padres player-turned-San Diego police officer Dan Walters has died, but his impact on America’s Finest City won’t be forgotten.
The San Diego Padres posted a goodbye to Walters on Twitter Thursday.
“Our thoughts are with Dan’s family,” the team’s tweet read.
The message included two photos of Walters: one in his Padres uniform and the other years later, watching from the field, in his wheelchair.
Walters was 53 years old.
He was born in Brunswick, Maine, but moved to San Diego County where he graduated from Santana High School in Santee.
A right-handed catcher, Walters made his Major League Baseball debut with the Padres on June 1, 1992, at the age of 25. He played two seasons and 84 career games with the Friars and hung up his mitt in May of 1993.
Walters then went from Major League Baseball to a major career move: he became an officer with the San Diego Police Department.
On Nov. 12, 2003, his whole life changed when he was shot while in the line of duty.
That night, Walters and rookie SDPD Officer Aaron Hildreth were on routine patrol on 43rd Street when they stopped to help SDPD Officer Henry Ingraham, who was approaching a suspicious man standing between two cars.
As Ingraham stepped closer to the suspect, the man opened fire. Walters and Hildreth were getting out of their patrol car and the suspect shot Walters on the neck, severely wounding him. A passing motorist then hit Walters, further adding to his injuries.
Hildreth – just 19 days out of SDPD training – fired his service weapon at the suspect and killed him, according to the San Diego Police Museum. Walters was awarded the Medal for Valor and the SDPD Purple Heart for trying to help Ingraham amid the threat of gunfire. Hildreth was awarded the Medal of Valor.
The shooting left Walters paralyzed from the neck down.
Ten years after the shooting, Walters spoke with Fred Dickey for a moving story for the San Diego Union-Tribune. In the piece, Walters spoke about that terrifying day.
He recalled lunging at the shooter, and how the suspect then put the gun to the back of Walters’ neck and fired. Walters told Dickey that the moment he was shot, he thought he was dead. Then he was hit by the car.
When he regained consciousness, according to the U-T piece, Walters said he realized he “couldn’t move a muscle.”
In that story, Walters also spoke in-depth about his life and how he didn’t want to be forgotten.
“Officer Dan Walters, End of Watch: April 23, 2020,” the online tribute ends.
Rest in Peace, Officer Walters.