Our community continues to mourn the loss of KSP Trooper Cameron Ponder. He died while on duty in Lyon County early Monday morning.
Police say the man ponder pulled over, Joseph Johnson-Shanks, was the one who ultimately shot and killed Ponder on Interstate 24 following a brief chase. Police later found Johnson-Shanks in a wooded area off the interstate.
In recent autopsies, Ponder and Johnson-Shanks were each found to have died of gunshot wounds. Officers who worked alongside Ponder continue working while grieving at the same time.
I spoke with two troopers who graduated the police academy with Ponder and Trooper Eric Chrisman, who died on duty in June. Ponder's death is the second time their post, and their graduating class, has suffered this kind of loss. They say they forged a strong bond with Ponder at the academy and will always remember that.
Trooper Paul Berhow and Trooper William Propes say Ponder carried the guide on throughout the entire academy. They describe him as a leader, a hard worker, and a mentor who took you under his wing. He helped his troopers and his community more times than they could count.
"He would get his stuff done and, rather than just relax, he would think about 'Who can I help out now?'" says Berhow.
They both responded to the call early Monday morning, and say they did not think twice because their brother, Ponder, would have done the same for them. But more than a dutiful trooper, Berhow and Propes remember him as funny. They remember him as extraordinarily courteous, and that he was born to be a trooper.
"He was very witty —observational kind of things," says Berhow.
"I'm still in shock. I still don't believe it, but it's going to be different not hearing him in the radio at night," says Propes.
Berhow and Propes now carry his memory with them everywhere, and wear a band of black over their badges.
"You honestly wish you'd just lose it so you don't have to see it over a badge again," says Propes.
But both say they find solace in one thought: Their fallen brother will be remembered as the hero he was every day.
"He always thought about 'What can I do to help somebody?' and that was the case until the end. He was the perfect trooper." says Propes.
Berhow and Propes say they plan to attend the services for Ponder tomorrow and Friday. They will wear their black mourning bands over their badges until after the funeral on Friday.
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Paducah, KY 42003