David Blanton Jr., 24, was a new father, a high school football star, a softball coach and one of the first Cherokees to work for the N.C. Highway Patrol. His promising life ended needlessly this week after he was shot on a dark interstate in Haywood County. He had pulled over a suspect for a traffic violation.
His young wife, his 2-week-old son, his parents and friends have lost a precious, irreplaceable presence in their lives. The North Carolinians Mr. Blanton served join them in their sorrow.
We also join them in wondering why such a senseless thing had to happen – and in the fervent hope that justice will come surely and swiftly for the one responsible.
What we know about Mr. Blanton's death is this: He reported stopping a pickup truck on Interstate 40 in western North Carolina and removing the driver. The two apparently scuffled on the side of the road, and the trooper was shot twice.
Edwardo Wong II, 37, of Florida, faces first-degree murder charges. He was arrested a short time later with narcotics and three weapons in his possession, including Mr. Blanton's. He has a lengthy criminal record in Florida, including convictions for assaulting a law enforcement officer, felony drug violations and felony possession of firearms, according to the Florida Department of Corrections. (To read Mr. Wong's arrest record, go to http://www.dc.state. fl.us/ Inmate Releases/ detail.asp? Bookmark= 1&From= list&Session ID= 106116915.)
The nature of law enforcement work puts those who do it in harm's way. Each day, officers such as Mr. Blanton go to work knowing they might not return. Yet that makes it no less painful when a life is brutally taken. Witnesses reported the suspect lingered at the shooting scene, searching Mr. Blanton's person nonchalantly before fleeing. That's despicable.
Questions abound. Among them: How did someone who had committed a number of such serious crimes get out of jail?
Mr. Blanton's family and friends need the support of North Carolinians. So do his colleagues in uniform, reminded bluntly of the dangers they face daily.
Meanwhile, the state's courts must work to deliver justice.