SAN DIEGO — A former San Diego Padres catcher who later became a San Diego police officer died Thursday, according to the San Diego Police Department. Dan Walters was 53 years old. No information on Walters' cause of death was immediately available.
Walters, who was born in Maine, graduated from Santana High School in East County San Diego in 1984. He was drafted that same year by the Houston Astros and later played as a catcher for the Padres for the 1992 and 1993 seasons. In 1993, a spinal injury ended Walter's baseball career.
In 1998, Walters became an officer with the San Diego Police Department. According to the San Diego Police Officers Association, he became paralyzed from the neck down after a 2003 shooting during a traffic stop that turned out to be a violent domestic disturbance in progress on 43rd Street in Southcrest.
Walters was struck in the neck by gunfire during the incident and fell onto the street, where a passing vehicle hit him, leaving him with two crushed cervical vertebrae.
The shooter was shot and killed by Walter's partner.
Despite extensive rehabilitation during which he regained some movement in his upper body, Walters had to use a wheelchair for the rest of his life, according to the San Diego Police Officers Association.
The San Diego Police Department made announcements over their radios Thursday about Walters' death and released a statement saying they lost "another hero who made the ultimate sacrifice." The department also shared details of Walter's life and career.
"Dan grew up locally, played professional baseball here in San Diego and proudly served his city as a police officer. He will forever be remembered by the members of this Department," the statement read in part.
When asked by the San Diego Union-Tribune in 2013 if he relived the incident in which he was shot, Walters said, "every day. Some days a lot worse than others."
Walters told the U-T about his struggles and pain after the shooting but also reminisced about his favorite moments serving as a police officer. He said he liked being able to help people in need and cited examples like getting women and children to a shelter.
He said he didn't regret being on the scene the night he was shot adding that maybe others were saved because of it.
The San Diego Padres tweeted that they were "deeply saddened" to hear of Walters' passing.
The SDPOA also paid tribute to Walters Thursday with a Facebook post about his baseball and law enforcement careers.
Governor Gavin Newsom on Friday issued the following statement regarding the death of San Diego Police Department Officer Daniel Gene “Dan” Walters:
“Jennifer and I were saddened to hear of the death of Officer Walters from injuries sustained in the line of duty in 2003. Unfortunately, Officer Walters’ life embodied the kind of tragic turn that our law enforcement officers know they may face.”
In honor of Officer Walters, Capitol flags will be flown at half-staff.