Gaston County, NC – Dallas Police Department Corporal Travis Wells died in the line of duty on Thursday morning in a single vehicle rollover crash.
Cpl. Wells, 46, was traveling along Dallas-Bessemer City Highway, also known as NC 275, at approximately 10 a.m., when his 2007 Ford Crown Victoria ran off of the road and struck a tree, WBTV reported.
He was heading home at the time.
The vehicle rolled at least once, Dallas Police Chief Allen Scott said during a press conference early Thursday afternoon, as he fought to hold back tears.
When first responders arrived at the scene, Cpl. Wells “was deceased due to injuries sustained during the collision,” North Carolina State Highway Patrol Trooper Ray Pierce told reporters.
The highway patrol is working to determine the cause of the crash, and will also examine the patrol vehicle for any possible mechanical failures, Trooper Pierce said.
According to WBTV, troopers at the scene said Cpl. Wells may have experienced a medical emergency, but officials have not confirmed that theory.
“Early on it would seem that way, but [we won’t know] until the medical examiner does the investigation,” Trooper Pierce said, according to the Shelby Star.
Investigators have not found any indications that Cpl. Wells braked or maneuvered the steering wheel prior to the crash, he added.
“We appreciate all the love, support and prayers during this difficult time for the Dallas Police Department,” Chief Scott said during the press conference.
Right now, he and his fellow officers are “just trying to work through the day,” he said.
Cpl. Wells was a 22-year veteran of the small, tight-knit Dallas Police Department, according to the chief.
“Our hearts are heavy today as well mourn the loss of a Dallas Police Officer involved in a wreck,” Gaston County Commissioner Tracy Philbeck wrote in a tweet. “We will be providing the town of Dallas and the Dallas PD assistance.”
“Any time it’s an officer involved it’s definitely hard,” Trooper Pierce said during the press conference. “You’re dealing with someone that you possibly see or know on a daily basis.”
“Officer Wells was here for 22 years, so he obviously made a lot of impact on his community and had a lot of family and friends here,” he continued. “It will definitely be a rough week and a rough time ahead as everyone gets to heal.”
The small community has already come together to support Cpl. Wells’ family and fellow officers, the Gaston Gazette reported.
Before Cpl. Wells’ name had even been released by officials, citizens began to gather near the Dallas Police Department, Venture Church pastor Austin Rammell said.
“You grieve over the loss of anyone,” Rammell told the paper. “But when it’s someone who has committed their life to serving you, there’s a particular appreciation in grief — an appreciation of their life and a sadness for their death.”
“It’s a big loss in a small town,” Dallas Mayor Rick Coleman said. “Everybody knows everybody else.”
Former Gaston County Commissioner Pearl Burris-Floyd called the corporal’s sudden death “heartbreaking.”
“It’s just a profound tragedy,” she told the Gaston Gazette. “I think that our police officers in Dallas are some of the finest, and our thoughts and prayers go out to the entire community.”
According to Dallas City Councilmember Stacy Malker Thomas, Cpl. Wells was “very involved in the town, and loved by everyone.”
“They’re brothers in blue,” Thomas said of the local department. “It’s more than just a job. They go out there every day for us, so it’s our time to be there for his family.”
Cpl. Wells leaves behind his wife, Chief Scott said during the press conference.
“He made a career out of serving us, and we owe it to now serve his wife and family,” Rammell told the Gaston Gazette. “I think the best way for the community to grieve with them is to be there with them and to look for those opportunities that we can be a blessing back to them.”
Our thoughts and prayers are with the family of Dallas Police Department Corporal Travis Wells, both blood and blue. Thank you for your service.
Rest easy, hero. We’ll hold the line from here.