F-35B fighter jets at the Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort Air Show on April 28, 2019. Tyler Wallingford, who died at the air station on April 12, was part of the VMFAT-501 squadron, which trains on the F-35B. Thad Moore/Staff 

As friends, family and fellow Marines gathered for a closed ceremony Tuesday to honor the life of Cpl. Tyler Wallingford, a cloud of uncertainty about what led to his killing continued to hang over the Marine Corps Air Station in Beaufort.  

It's been three weeks since he was shot in the station's barracks and military officials have said little publicly beyond identifying another Marine who was taken into custody. 

Officials would not confirm where Cpl. Spencer Daily is being held. 


Marine Cpl. Tyler Wallingford. Provided

Amidst the void of information about Wallingford's death, friends and family have used Facebook and other means to fill in details about his life: sharing photos, tribute videos and posts, messages of praise and sorrow. 

By their accounts "Wally," as some called him, was adventurous, loving and kind. 

"Your laugh is stuck in my head on repeat, and I hope it stays there forever," one person wrote.

"You showed us that you can always find the light in the darkest of times," a fellow Marine offered. 

With an ongoing military law enforcement investigation, questions surrounding Wallingford's death could linger for months. An inquiry into the January shooting death of another Marine at a Washington, D.C., base — investigated by the same military agency — is still ongoing. 

In the meantime, the mystery of what may have sparked one young Marine to shoot another on a warm Lowcountry night, remains unresolved. 

Under Investigation

Wallingford, 21, was shot at 9:30 p.m. April 12, according to 2nd Lt. Kevin Buss, a spokesman for the Marine Air Station in Beaufort. Daily, 21, although in custody, has so far not been formally charged with a crime. Buss said Daily is the only suspect.   

Both were in VMFAT-501, a Marine fighter training squadron based at Beaufort. They were also aircraft ordnance technicians, a job that involves inspecting weapons and loading and fusing them onto planes. 

The logo for the squadron, known as the "Warlords," features an F-35B Lighting II fighter plane flying through a silver shield over the Latin phrase: VINI-VICI: "I came, I conquered."

The Naval Criminal Investigative Service, a law enforcement agency that investigates crimes for the Navy and Marines, is leading the shooting inquiry. An NCIS spokesman declined to answer questions, saying the investigation is continuing.

That likely won't change soon.

The agency still has an open inquiry into the Jan. 1 shooting death of Lance Cpl. Riley Kuznia, 20, who was shot at the Marine Barracks Washington, D.C., base spokesman Gunnery Sgt. John Jackson said Thursday.

Military investigators tend to move slowly and methodically, regardless of the branch of service. 

It took about a year for a report from an Army investigation to surface after an October 2017 crash that killed two people and injured seven others at Fort Jackson in Columbia. That probe determined a drill sergeant had fallen asleep behind the wheel before plowing into a troop formation. He was sentenced to 18 months in prison after a guilty plea in February. 

Growing up

Wallingford was active as a kid. Playing sports. Joining the Cub Scouts and later the Boy Scouts. And following his father's footsteps to the Standish, Maine, fire department which he joined as a teenager working fire and rescue calls. 

“He had an infectious smile," the fire chief of the Standish department told the Portland Press Herald newspaper

Wallingford joined the Marines soon after graduating from high school in 2015. He entered boot camp at the Corps' recruit training center at Parris Island, near Hilton Head Island. 

"Why am I not getting yelled at by a drill instructor...? Where are they hiding?" he wrote on Twitter in 2016 after he finished at Parris Island. "I'll never forget my brothers. 13 weeks in hell," he wrote the next day. 

Wallingford later was stationed at Beaufort. 

Last year, he answered a call for reserve firefighters for the fire department that covers Beaufort and Port Royal. Wallingford graduated with other recruits in March some five weeks before his death, Reece Bertholf, the department's chief, said in a letter to the media.  

Wallingford's death came at an "unquantifiable cost," Bertholf wrote. 

Two days before Wallingford's memorial service, another tragedy struck Beaufort's air station. 

Police officers in Perry, Ga., found Marine Pvt. Anahitdeep Sandhu shot multiple times in front of an apartment complex in the small city some 200 miles from the air station. He later died. 

Sandhu, like Wallingford, worked as an aviation ordnance technician but they were in different squadrons. 


Chet Ellison met Wallingford around November 2017. Ellison, a coach at Jump Georgia Skydiving, said Wallingford would come back again and again to skydive. Sometimes he'd put in three or for jumps over southeast Georgia in a weekend. 

During one of his first jumps, Wallingford cautiously inched his way out of the plane, sliding down the strut that connects the fuselage to the wing. He lightly pushed away from the bar, cutting through the sunny sky. 

He became more confident with each and every jump, his early jitters barely noticed in later dives.

Take the time he hung upside down from the wing by his shoes. He gave two thumbs up before hurtling head first towards the earth more than 10,000 feet below. 

Wallingford used student gear but it didn't take him very long to eventually get his own. During his 100th jump, he only wore a skydiving container with his parachute. He ditched his clothes, cutting off his underwear before taking the plunge, Ellison said.   

Wallingford learned to use his body to slice through the open sky, manipulating the force of wind to his advantage. He topped out at more than 200 mph, Ellison said. 

"His skills were beyond me when I was there," said Ellison, who has skydived more than 350 times. "He was going to be really great." 

Even after making the two-hour drive to the memorial service at the Beaufort air station Tuesday, Ellison said he was still expecting Wallingford to drive over to Georgia for an upcoming weekend to jump again and hang out. 

That they wouldn't be able to do that ever again was something he wouldn't get used to for a long time. 

Thad Moore contributed to this report. 

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Reach Stephen Hobbs at 843-937-5428. Follow him on Twitter @bystephenhobbs.

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