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Smithsburg officer known for dedication

More than 1,000 attend Nicholson's funeral

More than 1,000 attend Nicholson's funeral

December 26, 2007|By HEATHER KEELS

WILLIAMSPORT - Smithsburg Police Officer Christopher Shane Nicholson was remembered for his dedication and sacrifice at a Christmas Eve funeral attended by Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley, about 600 police officers, and more than 400 of his friends and family members.

More than 1,000 people filled the Williamsport High School gymnasium, turning the bleachers into a sea of blue, green and brown dress uniforms dotted with the gold badges of more than two dozen agencies from across the region.

"It gives you goosebumps," someone murmured as the officers raised their hands to salute in unison.

In eulogies presented by O'Malley and those close to Nicholson, the 25-year-old officer who was fatally shot Wednesday night in the line of duty was described as a devoted community servant who could be relied upon to help wherever he was needed, whether that meant bringing friends through hard times with his jokes or putting his life on the line to provide police backup.

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"I bring you the condolences of the people of our great state," O'Malley told Nicholson's family and friends. "I can assure you that there are people all over our state who, even at this Christmas time, are thinking of each of you and praying for you, and are very, very grateful for the courage, and the service, and the valor, and the noble calling of your son."

Police say Nicholson was waiting for backup in a driveway off Welty Church Road when he was shot by a man suspected of fatally stabbing his ex-girlfriend, Alison Munson, earlier that night. Munson's funeral was also held Monday.

Douglas Wayne Pryor, 29, of Smithsburg, has been charged in both deaths.

O'Malley said the state flag was being flown at half-mast for Nicholson, "for this man, too young, too much promise; a life ended that was just beginning."

Nicholson's fiancée, Desiree Grimes of Sharpsburg, told those gathered that she met Nicholson this year on Jan. 10, his birthday.

"I got 11 great months getting to know him, and those of you who knew him longer will know how special he was," Grimes said. "He had a way about him that made you smile and laugh."

She read a poem about heaven by an unknown author called "Safely Home," and choked back sobs as she finished: "Chris, you will forever be in my heart, today, tomorrow, and always. I love you, your baby girl."

Sharpsburg Bible Church Pastor Gene W. Renner related a story Nicholson's aunt had told him about Nicholson's infancy. Nicholson was born with a severe heart defect, he said, and doctors said he had only a slim chance of survival. His aunt said she remembers holding 5-week-old Christopher and praying that if a life had to be taken, it would be hers instead of his. Instead, Nicholson lived to bring joy to his family and community for 25 years.

"My only regret," his aunt told Renner, "was not to be in the field with him and able to hold him and say that same prayer I said so many years ago."

Brandon Knight, son of Washington County Sheriff's Department Lt. Mark Knight, said the pain of the loss was shared by the families of every officer of the law and that Nicholson's spirit would live on through them.

"Your son will be remembered forever as a hero, and nothing less," Knight said.

Nicholson's best friend and Western Maryland Police Academy classmate, Deputy 1st Class Joel Footen, spoke of Nicholson's dedication to his family, his fiancée, his friends and his job.

"This world will never be the same without this great young man," Footen said. "I do not know how or when we will be able to return to a normal life."

However, Footen said Nicholson would not have wanted his friends and family to live in sorrow forever.

"I am confident that we will all be able to take something from this tragedy, each in our own way."

Footen joined O'Malley in calling on the many police officers present to view Nicholson as an example of pride and dedication to the community.

"We can never repay the sacrifice made by Officer Nicholson and his family and his fiancee Desiree," O'Malley said. "But we can continue the mission for which Christopher gave his life, that is to protect our neighbors, to guide young people to better choices and brighter futures."

In a sermon, Renner encouraged loved ones to place their trust in God's love and the inner peace that God brings, to bring them through their grief and the fierce anger at the way Nicholson's life was taken.

"We would like to see the same thing happen to the killer that happened to Christopher, but we cannot allow that anger which is normal and natural to direct our lives," Renner said. "Revenge is something that is only a temporary relief. It would eat away at our hearts and make us no better than that killer."

Family, friends gather for Alison Munson's funeral

Dealing with anger at the injustice of the night's events was also a theme at Munson's funeral, which was held 25 miles away at Orchard Ridge First Church of God in Hancock, the pastor there said.

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