On May 4, 2019, time stood still in Mooresville.
That was the call.
Phone calls and text messages quickly started revealing the horror unfolding that night on N.C. 150. K9 Officer Jordan H. Sheldon, 32 years old and a six-year veteran of the Mooresville Police Department, had been gunned down during a routine traffic stop. The murderer fled the scene and shot himself in a nearby apartment.
In those moments of utter chaos and tragedy, a police department — a community — was in crisis, and a family was unknowingly living its final moments of peace on this earth.
Today, May 4, marks four years since that night, and while life has effectively moved on, as with all matters of tragedy and grief, things will never be the same.
“A lot of people say that time heals all; for those people, I’m glad to hear it,” said Jordan’s younger brother, Carson Ledford. “What we don’t talk about enough in our society is the lasting, often debilitating effects of traumatic grief.”
Carson said his family still feels the grief of losing Jordan as if it were the first day of living it. “The weight of a life unlived and the sadness of someone’s missing presence is a horrible thing to carry each day,” he said.
Countless stories of Jordan’s kindness and integrity — the way he showed up in every way possible during others’ darkest hours — poured in after news of his death.
“He was phenomenal,” said a victim of domestic assault whose call Jordan answered one day. “He had compassion, and this is huge: he had follow-through. He was tough and treated me like we were longtime friends. He put me at ease, he made me feel safe, he listened to me and was genuinely concerned for my well-being and the well-being of my children.”
Carmelita Jimenez attended Basic Law Enforcement Training (BLET) with Jordan. “When we started our law enforcement journeys together, Jordan always believed in me,” she said. “The day I found out I was going to be a mom, I couldn’t think of a better way to honor one of my best friends than to name my son after him. Not only is he named after a true hero, but he’s named after a great man.
“No matter how hard things in life may be, I constantly have Jordan in the back of my mind, telling me how much of a badass I am,” Carmelita said, “and I’ll make sure I raise my son with that attitude as well. I’ll forever be grateful for being a part of Jordan’s life.”
“He was a damn good cop — a professional,” said an officer who worked beside Jordan. “And that dude was always smiling.”
Recollections like that bring comfort to Jordan’s family, Carson said. “We’ve heard so many stories about people he impacted and still impacts through everyday interactions on the job: calls he responded to, someone he met while directing traffic, his kind-but-rational mind and exceedingly good judgment.”
Carson’s mom, Susan, continues to be the anchor of the family — including Carson, his sister Lauren, and Jordan’s fiancé Jamie. And while they say there’s no “moving on” as a family, there’s “moving forward,” and they’re doing that the best way they know how: by honoring Jordan’s memory in ways that would make him proud.
Jordan H. Sheldon Memorial Scholarship
Perhaps no showing of community support for Jordan and his family is more remarkable than what happened on the one-year anniversary of the K9 officer’s death. On that day — May 4, 2020 — the community, including Brad Keselowski’s Checkered Flag Foundation, Lowe’s and many other contributors, pushed the Jordan H. Sheldon Memorial Scholarship at Mitchell Community College over the $100,000 mark. Half that funding was raised in April, alone: the month leading up to the anniversary. The balance of the endowment scholarship — which provides four BLET cadets each year with $1,000 toward the cost of their training — is now about $115,000.
Carson said the scholarship is a lasting tribute to his brother. “Given its endowment structure, the scholarship will still be making gifts long after we’re gone,” he said.
“To know that this community supported one of the most important endeavors of our family – to carry on Jordan’s life – that is what sustains me each day,” Carson said. “That we are not alone in our grief and that many people have graciously joined us to support causes bearing Jordan’s name. How do you say thank you to those who have carried you through your darkest hours?”
Sheldon’s K9s (SK9) is Ofc. Jordan Sheldon’s namesake non-profit organization that started when a group of people decided — based on a desire Jordan expressed while alive — to connect K9s to the greater community. “Sheldon’s K9s is truly a testament to Jordan’s life and passion,” Carson said. “He loved dogs from the start, and it’s not surprising he became a K9 handler.”
Clutch Coffee in Mooresville launched the SK9 foundation with a fundraiser in May 2019, shortly after Jordan was killed, and the nonprofit has grown exponentially since. It has two primary focus areas: a retirement program for law enforcement K9s and an equipment program for working K9s. The first four retired K9s that SK9 cared for included Jordan’s retired K9, Loki, and three other K9s retired from Mooresville Police Department (MPD): Baks, Cyrus and Zoey.
While waiting for the next K9 to retire from MPD, SK9 has spent the past year broadening its assistance to 50 surrounding law enforcement agencies in nearby counties. In October 2022, it added four newly retired K9s, and 10 have since been added, currently totaling 14 retired K9s. Plans are to have 20 by the end of 2023.
The retirement model, Carson explained, is structured to keep retiring K9s with their handlers; SK9 covers costs for feed, veterinary care and other expenses that could quickly become a burden for the handler of an aging K9.
Since its inception, SK9 has cared for 18 retired K9s from agencies including MPD, Iredell County Sheriff’s Office and the police departments of Charlotte-Mecklenburg, Statesville, Gaston County, Concord, Belmont and Lincolnton. The organization has paid nearly $14,000 in retired K9 expenses — the average cost of a retired K9 is approximately $3,000, Carson said — and expects to spend more this calendar year with the new group of K9s recently added.
SK9 has also purchased and donated more than $20,000 of supplemental equipment toward the training and safety of working K9s at MPD and surrounding agencies. In particular, Carson said, SK9 seeks to invest in important community projects, such as its partnership with Brad Keselowski’s Checkered Flag Foundation to purchase the K9 agility equipment at the public Jordan H. Sheldon Memorial Dog Park. SK9 also hosts its annual Fall Fest at GoPro Motorplex, featuring vendors, music, and live MPD K9 demonstrations.
“One of our goals is to increase community involvement when it comes to working dogs,” said Carson. “Many don’t fully understand the importance or purpose of these K9s. Helping to bridge that gap is part of why we exist.”
“Jordan knew too well the costs of a retired K9, having paid for much of Loki’s care out of his own pocket. While he was certainly glad to do so, the fact is that he shouldn’t have had to,” Carson said.
“That’s the cause we seek to address now: caring for the K9s who have given their best years to service.”
Jordan’s birthday is March 4, and the day of his death is marked exactly two months later.
His death was very public and, subsequently, accompanied by a tremendous amount of community support.
But grief is very personal. And at the end of the day, people face it alone.
Four years later, the memories of Jordan are still raw and painful. Tragedy tends to do that to a family. But every once in a while, a memory floods back and, with it, a smile.
Like any other law-enforcement family, Jordan’s family remembers him for who he was at home and not necessarily on the job. “He was funny, kind, smart, loving, devoted and easy-going,” Carson said. “When I think of Jordan, the first thing that comes to mind is his incredible sense of humor. He was the first truly clever person I ever knew, even by older brother standards. He could outwit anyone. He was too smart for his own good.”
This story originally appeared in the May edition of the Iredell Free News Monthly.