Master Trooper Junius Walker was a 35-year veteran of the Virginia State Police; a man known as a gentle giant who had patrolled roads around Dinwiddie County for nearly three decades. His final run was to check on an apparently disabled vehicle on Interstate 85.

Walker, 63, pulled his marked patrol car alongside the black sedan that was stopped on the shoulder of the southbound lanes about 1:20 p.m. Thursday, near mile marker 45, about 40 miles south of Richmond.

The person in the driver’s seat of the sedan opened fire, police say, wounding Walker multiple times.

“He was a great man, not only in size but in personality and in character,” Corinne Geller, a state police spokeswoman, said of Walker, who was 6-foot-4. “This is a very difficult time for our department. He’s well known in this community, well loved.”

Walker’s car lurched forward after the shooting, traveling about 30 feet off the highway and coming to rest in the woods.

This photo provided by the Virginia State Police shows Master Trooper Junius Walker. Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell says Walker, who was involved in a shooting on Thursday along Interstate 85 in southeastern Virginia has died. (AP)

Police say a passing motorist called 911 to report a trooper in distress. When additional troopers arrived, one saw Russell E. Brown, 28, of Chesterfield, Va., standing outside Walker’s patrol car with a weapon, police said.

The trooper and Brown exchanged shots, and Brown fled, police said. Other officers were called in to search for him.

About 30 minutes later, sheriff’s deputies arrested Brown at a tow-truck company about a half-mile away from the site of the shooting. Investigators recovered a firearm in the woods and were awaiting ballistics tests to determine whether it was the weapon used in the killing.

While police were searching for Brown, the heat from the engine of Walker’s vehicle caused the brush under his patrol car to catch fire, state police said. Troopers were able to pull Walker from the burning vehicle, but his gunshot wounds proved fatal, police said in a statement.

Brown was charged with one count of capital murder of a police officer, one count of attempted capital murder of a police officer, and two counts of using a firearm in the commission of a felony. He was being held without bond at the Meherrin River Regional Jail in Alberta, Va.

“Master Trooper Walker was a highly-respected and longtime veteran of our department, which has made his shocking death especially hard on the Virginia State Police family,” said Col. W. Steven Flaherty, the Virginia State Police superintendent. “For 35 years he served us proud as a mentor to multitudes of new troopers, as a valued partner and colleague to his fellow Area 7 troopers.”

Walker was married and had two adult daughters. He is the first Virginia trooper to be fatally shot on duty since February 2006, when Trooper Kevin C. Manion was wounded in the chest while investigating a crash in Clarke County, according to the state police Web site.