LAKE CHARLES, LA (KPLC) - Devastated is the only word to describe Louisiana State Police Troop D. Mourning the loss of Senior Trooper Duane Dalton, the flags hung at half staff. Dalton was on routine patrol Tuesday night around 7:30 heading south on Highway 171 in Moss Bluff when he was broadsided on his passenger side.
"A vehicle failed to yield to a stop sign at Gloria Lane, pulled out into his lane of traffic and struck his vehicle causing him to lose control and run off the road," said Captain Mike Leonards, Commander of Louisiana State Police Troop D.
39-year-old Dalton was airlifted to Memorial hospital where he was pronounced dead on arrival. The driver of the SUV, 50-year-old Debra Bourque of Lake Charles, was uninjured. A blood test indicated she had not had alcohol prior to the accident, but further toxicology tests are still pending as are charges as the accident remains under investigation.
Dalton's death marks the 25th for Louisiana State Police officer killed in the line of duty and the second for Troop D.
"It's devastating. It's one of the hardest things to lose somebody that not only that you work with but you have been a good friend with for and have known for years," said Captain Leonards.
A native of Virginia, Dalton made his way down to the Bayou State by way of the U.S. Army. Stationed at Fort Polk, he was a decorated veteran by the time he got out in 1992. But Dalton wouldn't go far, beginning his career in law enforcement as a patrolman with Lake Charles Police from 1993 - 1995. He then made a transfer to State Police Troop D in the patrol division.
"He was very good at what he did," said Captain Leonards, "A true professional."
Dalton would also see success during his five year stint while working in the State Police's Gaming Division, but came back to his first passion a little over a year ago.
"He missed the road, like most of us do... It gets in your blood and he just wanted to come back and be a road trooper and work his way up... Like we all want to do," explained Leonards.
And he was on his way. In 1999 he was named Troop D's Trooper of the year. Well respected, some 200 officers showed up at the hospital, including State Police Colonel Mike Edmonson who flew in late Tuesday night to support Dalton's wife and three sons.
"To watch here holding his hand to see those three boys to know that his oldest boy had just gotten his driver's license. He got to be there with him to talk to the 18 year old, the loss of losing a father. Talking with the other two boys. It was just very difficult time watching them and a mother and wife lose her husband," said Colonel Edmonson.
In the quiet of the night, all area agencies come together to escort their brother of the badge.
"No matter how many times you see this or how many times you are involved with it... It's impressive, it's really an impressive thing because all of us really work together so much," said Zeb Johnson, with the Calcasieu Coroner's Office.
It's a show of unity that will likely continue in the coming days as they say their final goodbyes and lay Trooper Dalton to rest.
His family including his parents will make the trip from Virginia some time Thursday for funeral services, which have been finalized by Johnson Funeral Home on Lake Street.
Visitation is scheduled for Friday from 11 a.m. until 10 p.m. and will resume on Saturday at 10 a.m. until the funeral at 2 p.m. The funeral will be held at Trinity Baptist Church, followed by burial at Consolata Cemetery.
An account has been set up for an education fund for Trooper Dalton's children. You can stop by any Chase bank and make a contribution.