A naked postal worker fatally shot his boss at an Ohio post office before hunting down the local postmaster and killing her in a brutal attack outside of her apartment, police say.
DeShaune Stewart, 24, was being investigated for unspecified reasons and was facing dismissal from his job, The Associated Press reports.
Stewart, who was scheduled to walk his delivery route on December 23, first killed his direct supervisor, Lance Herrera-Dempsey, about 4:30 a.m. at the Dublin post office, police say. Herrera-Dempsey, 58, was overseeing early morning sorting of the last rush of pre-Christmas mail, according to the Columbus Dispatch.
Police say Stewart then went to the apartment complex of the Dublin postmaster, Ginger Ballard, 53, to attack her. Officers responded to a report of a disturbance in the parking lot of that complex and found Ballard dead. The officers spotted Stewart and took him into custody after a brief pursuit.
Stewart has been charged with premeditated aggravated murder in the death of Herrera-Dempsey and murder in Balllard’s death.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. Stewart, Who Was Naked, Walked Up to His Supervisor at the Post Office & Shot Him Multiple Times, Police Say
The first incident occurred about 4:30 a.m. at the Dublin post office at 6400 Emerald Parkway, Columbus Police said in a press release. Officers were dispatched to a possible active shooter, but found that the suspect, later identified as DeShaune Stewart, had already left.
“Officers discovered the suspect was an employee of the post office. The victim was a supervisor of the suspect. The victim was pronounced deceased at 5:05 a.m.,” police said.
According to the Columbus Dispatch, Stewart walked into the post office, which was closed to the public, about 4:25 a.m. Panicked workers, including Lance Herrera-Dempsey, were sorting mail when the naked carrier walked in.
Herrera-Dempsey said “what the hell?” after seeing the naked Stewart and was then shot in the shoulder, witnesses said, according to the Dispatch. Herrera-Dempsey fell to the ground and Stewart shot him a second time. Witnesses said Stewart did not shoot or threaten any except Herrera-Dempsey, who was his supervisor.
2. He Then Went to the Postmaster’s Apartment Complex, Where He Chased Her Around the Parking Lot Before Throwing Her to the Ground, Killing Her, Police Say
Columbus Police said in a press release that officers were then dispatched at 7:18 a.m. to 5591 Bowland Place North for a report of a man chasing a female in the parking lot of the apartment complex.
Officers found DeShaune K. Stewart, who was still naked and armed with a semi-automatic handgun. He was taken into custody without incident when confronted, police said.
Ginger Ballard, the 53-year-old postmaster, was found unresponsive on the ground between two cars in the parking lot of the complex, where she lived. She was pronounced dead at 7:47 a.m.
“Patrol officers realized this incident was related to a homicide that occurred at the Dublin, Ohio Post Office just hours earlier,” police said.
Police told the Columbus Dispatch that Stewart chased Ballard around the parking lot with a gun. He then threw her to the pavement, crushing her skull and killing her instantly, police said.
3. Ballard’s Friends Say She’ll Be Remembered for Her ‘Positivity & Optimism,’ While Herrera-Dempsey’s Husband Says He Was Loved & Respected by His Employees
Ginger Ballard’s friend, Terri Rivera, wrote on Facebook, “She encapsulated the notion of living life to the fullest her outgoing, bubbly, personality I will remember the most and her positivity and optimism for what can and will be possible I will always cherish.”
River said Ballard was planning to attend a winter solstice event with her later in the day.
“I just don’t understand I loved her so much,” Rivera wrote. “I pray for all of you who she Touched, Big prayers for her mom & dad their only Child and the light of their lives, Her Partner Karen, And all the postal employees and family she leaves behind.”
Ballard’s partner, Karen Garber, told the Columbus Dispatch that they met two decades ago while working at the post office together.
Garber told the newspaper that Ballard was an only child and loved her parents, Gerald and Mary Ellen Ballard.
“It was rare that she would go to bed without talking to her Mom,” Garber said, adding that Ballard was a friend to many and “she cared about her employees a lot.”
Garber, who is a postmaster in the Cincinnati area, told the newspaper that the killing was carried out by a “deranged” individual who took the “love of my life.”
Ballard was a giving person, her friends said. She started a GoFundMe campaign last year for a Santee Sioux veteran.
She was also a cyclist. A local group, Team SixOneFour, wrote on Facebook, “Our thoughts go out to our friend Ginger Ballard who lost her life today because of a deranged postal co-worker. Ginger was a good friend of the team and went on bike trips to Asheville with us. She was a positive person and always fun to be around. A sad day.”
Jack Wood, who preceded Ballard at the Dublin post office, wrote on Facebook, “My heart is heavy for the staff & families at the Dublin, OH Post Office where a supervisor and Postmaster were killed today. I was the OIC in Dublin for a few months in 2012 and was replaced by the Postmaster slain today. Ginger Ballard was a dedicated Postmaster that ran a good office. What a senseless act.”
Steve Dempsey, Lance Herrera-Dempsey’s husband, told the Columbus Dispatch he said good night and told him he loved him, as they always did, before going to bed Friday night.
“I don’t know what happened with this particular person, but (he) had the respect of a lot of people,” Steve Dempsey told the newspaper. “I’ve been getting phone calls all day from people who are just broken. He was about taking care of his people. He was a carrier himself. He knew what the challenges were.”
Steve and Lance were together for 26 years, according to the newspaper. They both served in the Army and met while they were stationed together in Germany, Steve told the Dispatch.
Herrera-Dempsey was originally from Bishop, California, and was one of eight children.
“He should have never died the way he died,” his sister Lisa Gonzales, told the Dispatch.
“I don’t know what I’m going to do,” Steve Dempsey said. “There’s not going to be a Christmas, right?”
4. Stewart Does Not Appear to Have a Criminal Record, Except for Traffic Tickets
DeShaune Stewart does not appear to have a previous criminal record. Police said he has not been arrested previously in Franklin County, Ohio. Online records show Stewart, a resident of Columbus who has also lived in Chicago, has been ticketed for speeding and seat belt violations, but nothing more serious than that.
It is not known if the gun Stewart used in the attacks was legally owned or when it was purchased.
Police called the incidents “workplace violence.” Stewart was facing discipline for unspecified workplace violations, police said.
“One was his supervisor, the other was an investigator who was investigating him for some type of misconduct,” Police Sergeant Dave Sicilian said in a statement. “There had been some type of investigation into his misconduct and it had culminated and to possibly him being terminated and this was apparently his response was very violent.”
5. He Is Being Held at the Franklin County Jail While the Attacks Are Investigated by Federal & Local Authorities
DeShaune Kilon Stewart is being held at the Franklin County Jail, records show. He is facing charges of aggravated murder and murder. Stewart was scheduled to appear in court December 26 for his arraignment. It is not known if he has hired an attorney.
The case remains under investigation by both federal and local authorities.
“Because the tragic matter is the subject of an ongoing investigation by the Postal Inspection Service and local law enforcement, we are not yet in a position to provide details concerning the incidents, although we can say the suspect believed to be responsible for the shootings was apprehended and is in custody. We are referring all additional media inquiries to the Southern District of Ohio U.S. Attorney’s Press Office and they will provide additional information at the appropriate time,” said Kathryn Woliung, a spokesperson for the U.S. Postal Inspector’s office.
Columbus Mayor Andrew Ginther said in a statement, “I am deeply saddened and angered at the most recent homicide in our city. At a time when many gather together to celebrate new beginnings, yet another family must struggle with a heartbreaking loss. We must guard against treating this loss of human life as a mere statistic. This homicide is just as tragic as the first one of 2017. We must share in the pain and grief, but more importantly, the responsibility to hold those responsible accountable. We cannot remain silent as those intent on destroying life continue to terrorize our neighborhoods.”
Columbus and Dublin police are both investigating.
Police said, “Anyone with info is asked to contact CPD’s Homicide Unit at 645-4730 or Det. Porter at firstname.lastname@example.org.”