COLUMBUS COUNTY, NC (WWAY) — Saturday marks two years since North Carolina State Trooper Kevin Conner was shot and killed in the line of duty in Columbus County.
Conner left behind his wife, Miranda, daughter, Briley and son, Braxson. As the fall sets in each year, his family says the mood changes, and they feel his loss even more.
“You don’t ever move on,” Conner’s widow, Miranda Conner Ellington said. “You just have to move forward.”
Through this tragedy, they’ve been dedicated to sharing Conner’s legacy and even supporting a new law in his name. They describe him simply as their hero.
“I wouldn’t wish it on my worst enemy,” Conner Ellington said. “There have been days where we barely seem to function, but you really don’t have a choice.”
It’s a void that will forever linger for her and her children.
“It’s the day to day that’s the hardest,” she said. “Him not coming home everyday, and not being here on those holidays and those special times.”
Conner’s daughter, Briley, lost her dad at just 11 years old. She says her dad was her best friend.
“All of the family vacations, or holidays, or all of the memories are my favorite,” Briley Conner said.
Each October, Conner Ellington says she and her children feel an overwhelming sense of dread. The overnight hours of October 17, 2018 will forever be ingrained in her memory.
“You never prepare yourself for that as a law enforcement wife,” she said. “You know it could happen, and you hope it never will. So when that knock came at the door. That’s something I’ll never forget as long as I live. I’ll never forget having to having to come home and tell my children their dad wasn’t coming home.”
At a traffic stop in Columbus County at the end of his shift, Conner was shot and killed in the line of duty.
“I don’t know,” Briley said. “Everything was a blur after Momma told me.”
Conner Ellington says her late husband wanted to be a State Trooper since he was a little boy, and was always quick to help anyone in need.
“He died doing something that he loved, and he will forever and ever be a hero.”
For 11 years, Conner served the North Carolina State Highway Patrol.
“Kevin was the type of person who, when he walked into a room, he lit up the whole room with his smile,” Conner Ellington said. “Everybody was drawn to him. It was so amazing after to hear the stories of people who would come up and say, ‘Kevin was my best friend.’ People who I had never even me who thought they were best friends with Kevin because that’s how he made you feel.”
From a public servant, to a friend, to just ‘Dad’, Conner wore many different hats.
“My best friend, we always talk about how he always used to make us laugh,” Briley Conner said.
Although the years come and go, his loss never gets easier for his family.
“He was what we should all aspire to be as human,” Conner Ellington said. “His heart was in service, and his heart was in people. He was just one of the good ones.”
Now, his death is helping other law enforcement families. Conner’s Law, named in his honor, raises the penalties when an officer is killed or injured in the line of duty, and provides more financial compensation for their families.
“It’s something that the kids can always be proud of, that something good, perhaps, can come out of tragedy,” Conner Ellington said.
Conner Ellington says they remember Kevin all year, but especially around the anniversary of his death, they think about him even more.
She says it’s important they continue to talk about him so his legacy lives on.
“I don’t ever want his name to be forgotten,” she said. “I want people to say his name. I want people to remember those stories. Remember what a good friend, a good husband and father he was, and what a good State Trooper he was.”
Since Conner’s death, the Trooper Kevin Conner Memorial Foundation was started to raise money to fund the Trooper Kevin Conner Spirit of Community and Leadership Award.
The annual Trooper Kevin Conner Memorial 5k is on Saturday morning, both in-person and virtually.
Chauncy Askew is facing capital murder charges in Conner’s death. He’s being held in the Columbus County Detention Center under no bond.
Due to COVID-19 restrictions, jury trials in North Carolina have been put on hold. The Columbus County District Attorney says scheduling Askew’s trial is a top priority once they’re allowed to hold jury trials.