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Smithsburg mourns police officer

December 21, 2007|By JOSHUA BOWMAN

SMITHSBURG - He was born with a heart defect so severe and rare that doctors didn't think he would make it out of the hospital.

Surgery fixed the problem but left Christopher Shane Nicholson with scars on his abdomen and chronic asthma that caused him to become easily winded.

"He had to work harder than most people to do things after that. And he did. We never had to worry about Christopher," his stepfather, Paul Highbarger, said Thursday.

Nicholson, a 25-year-old Smithsburg Police officer who was shot and killed Wednesday night, was described as a hard-working, driven and well-liked man by those who knew him.

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His death sent shudders through the tight-knit town that had never before seen one of its officers killed in the line of duty.

Police on Thursday morning charged Douglas Wayne Pryor with the shooting death of Nicholson and the stabbing death of Alison Munson, Pryor's former girlfriend.

Police said they believed that after the stabbing in Halfway, Pryor was heading to Smithsburg. They asked Nicholson, who was the only Smithsburg police officer on duty, for assistance.

Police said Nicholson was waiting in a driveway when he encountered Pryor. Officers later found Nicholson lying near his police cruiser in a field off Welty Church Road, police said.

"It was a senseless act," Smithsburg Mayor Mildred "Mickey" Myers said Thursday. "Everybody's in mourning."

Myers replaced Christmas decorations at town hall with black drapery Thursday. She said she has been bombarded with phone calls of support from politicians, police officers and people off the street.

Myers described Nicholson as a warm and gentle person, saying that he was "well-liked even by those he arrested."

Nicholson graduated from Williamsport High School in 2000 and worked as a State of Maryland correctional officer before entering the Western Maryland Police Academy in January 2006.

Highbarger said becoming a police officer was his stepson's "lifelong goal."

He was sworn in as a member of the Smithsburg Police Department on July 11, 2006.

Nicholson had no children and was not married, but was planning to propose to his fiance on Christmas Eve, his stepfather said.

"His mom had the ring. He was waiting until Christmas Eve so he could propose in front of the family," Highbarger said.

Myers said Nicholson's sense of family and community was evident in his personality and his relationships with coworkers and town residents.

"He really became part of our family here and part of the town very quickly," Myers said.

Sean Henson waited on Nicholson Wednesday night at the Smithsburg Market, where Nicholson often stopped for dinner during his shift.

"He ordered six wings and a bowl of chili. He loved the chili," Henson said.

Nancy Barth, who was also working at the market Wednesday night, called Nicholson "a nice guy who talked to everybody."

"Whenever we had problems with kids in the neighborhood skateboarding, he would take care of it," Barth said. "Everybody liked him."

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