MOORESVILLE, N.C. — When Jordan Sheldon was 5-years-old he dressed up as Batman for Halloween. From that moment on, Susan Ledford knew her son was going to grow up to be a police officer.
"We just think he always wanted to be the hero," Susan Ledford said.
He was known in the community as "Officer Smiley.”
"He loved being a policeman," Susan Ledford said.
He earned the nickname because he always had a smile on his face and truly, wanted to help people.
"That was the happiest we'd ever seen him was doing the job," Susan Ledford said.
Sheldon was a graduate of Central Cabarrus High School and earned a degree from UNC Charlotte in criminal justice. After completing additional training at Central Piedmont Community College, he joined the Mooresville Police Department in the fall of 2013 as a K9 officer. He was with the Mooresville Police Department for six years.
"He was one of those officers that every kid wants to be like and I think that every police officer on the job wants to be like," said interim Mooresville Police Chief Ron Campurciani. "That's the type of guy he was."
On the night of May 4, 2019, Sheldon conducted a traffic stop on West Plaza Drive in Mooresville.
The State Bureau of Investigation and Mooresville Police Department conducted an investigation, which revealed that the traffic stop was on suspicion of a suspended driver's license. Sheldon called the traffic stop at 10:13 p.m.
Michael Yovany Aldana of Mooresville was identified as the driver of the vehicle.
Campurciani said he reviewed Sheldon's body cam video from that night.
"You can see in the video he does everything right," Campurciani said.
Sheldon's first trip to Aldana's car was to get documentation.
"The guy was friendly in the video. He was cordial," Campurciani said.
He even described Aldana as "polite."
"There was nothing in that initial stop that would raise any type of red flag," Campurciani said.
After obtaining Aldana's license and registration, he returned to his patrol vehicle to check Aldana's information through the national database while Aldana was in his vehicle.
Results confirmed Aldana was driving on a suspended license, and Sheldon approached the vehicle again and spoke with Aldana, who produced additional documentation.
While Sheldon examined the documents, Aldana fired a semiautomatic handgun at Sheldon.
"All of a sudden, just out of the blue, the guy just grabs a gun and shoots," Campurciani said.
Officials say Aldana then fled the scene, drove to his apartment off Plaza Drive and took his own life.
Campurciani said Sheldon didn't have any time to react. "None."
See Sarah French's interview with Officer Sheldon's family Wednesday at 11 p.m. on WCNC NBC Charlotte
Investigators could not determine a specific motive for the shooting. However, interviews with Aldana's former girlfriend revealed he had made recent comments of killing himself and killing a police officer in the process.
Sheldon's family has always been very private. They didn't want to talk about how Sheldon died, but how he lived and the legacy he leaves behind.
The family says Sheldon was building a new house in Mooresville with his girlfriend Jamie Basham. They met in November 2017 and they hit it off on their first date.
They had talked about getting married and Sheldon’s family said he planned on proposing after he sold his own house.
“We just thought it was a great place to raise a family,” Basham said.
The couple talked about the dangers that come with being a police officer, but never the what if.
“I always knew that with him being a police officer there's an inherent risk when he leaves to go to work. And he knew that as well. But you never actually, I didn't actually think that he wouldn't come home one day,” Basham said.
The couple started construction on their dream home in January and the closing date was set for June. It was just five minutes away from the Mooresville Police Department.
“The house was done. We just had the final touches,” Basham said.
The last thing the couple talked about was picking a ceiling fan for the new house.
“There was a lot of back and forth about what ceiling fans we were going to get for the house,” Basham said.
Carson Ledford also talked to his brother hours before his death.
"He sent me some pictures of the house they were building. He was very proud of it," Carson Ledford said.
Carson Ledford lives in New York, but the distance didn't separate the two brothers. They talked often.
Carson Ledford said that Saturday afternoon it was a typical conversation just to say hello and to check in on each other.
"He was on his way to work. I was at a barbecue," Carson Ledford said.
"Obviously knowing what we know now, we would have said different things."
Sheldon's mom said she also talked to her son earlier that day. She was doing her typical Saturday errands and called her son to say hello. He was home watching football.
"He said why'd you call?" Susan said with a laugh. "And I said well, no particular reason. Just to see how you were doing."
Sheldon’s sister Lauren Sheldon is a local ER nurse. Like her brother, they both loved helping others and giving back to their community.
“He wanted to be a police officer,” Lauren Sheldon said. “He genuinely wanted to make a difference, and he genuinely wanted to help people.”
The Mooresville community did not let Sheldon's death be in vain.
Flowers and signs honoring Sheldon were placed outside the Mooresville Police Department, next to his patrol car and a sign inside the front lobby with Sheldon's photo garnered hundreds of signatures and comments thanking him for his service to the community.
“We’ve always been very private, but for us I think it was interesting to feel such a connection. You could tell that they (the community) really cared about him,” Carson Ledford said.
Sheldon’s reputation as a Good Samaritan followed him throughout his life. His family said Sheldon was kind, thoughtful, charismatic, and easy going, and he always saw the best in everyone.
“For us, while it doesn’t make his death any easier, I think that we’re glad to know that who he was to us was who he was to so many other people,” Carson Ledford said. “He was funny and kind and outgoing and hardworking.”
Sheldon's funeral service took place at Charlotte's Calvary Church. During the funeral, Sheldon's best friend, Ryan Shannon, walked Sheldon’s first K-9 partner, Loki. Shannon is a K-9 officer in Florida. Loki is retired and lives with Sheldon’s mom.
Following the service, a procession of more than 2,500 emergency vehicles escorted Sheldon back to Mooresville. The community showed its support by lining the roads along the procession route.
“When the funeral procession came into Mooresville and every street we went down was lined 3-4 deep, that was very special that people cared that much,” Susan Ledford said. “There was not an empty space on any road in Mooresville and that was very special.”
Sheldon’s family said they were very touched by the amount of community support.
“We were almost in shock at how many people turned out,” Susan Ledford said. “A real show of love.”
Photos: Remembering Mooresville K9 Officer Jordan Harris Sheldon
Sheldon loved all dogs, especially his K-9 partners Loki and Ramon.
“Dogs were like his children. I know a lot of people with dogs say that, but in Jordan’s case, he cares about them as if they were his own flesh and blood. I mean he did. He loved them,” Carson Ledford said.
“He even talked about when he retires getting into being a dog trainer,” Basham recalled.
After Sheldon’s death, Ramon was placed with a new K-9 officer on the Mooresville Police Department. The family has now created a non-profit called Sheldon’s Canines.
“It exists to better the lives of working dogs and their handlers,” Carson Ledford explained.
It also includes a retirement program, which supports canines that retire from the Mooresville Police Department.
“I want him to be remembered as someone who would go the extra mile to help anyone,” Basham said. “I want him to be remembered as someone who loves dogs.”
There is also an endowed scholarship named after Sheldon at Mitchell Community College to benefit two future police officers.
“Generations from now will know his name. (They will) know who he was and that he’s still helping people and making a contribution to the community,” Carson Ledford said.
Sheldon died as a hero serving the community he grew up always wanting to protect.