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Brothers in blue enforce the law in Washington County

September 10, 2008|By ERIN JULIUS

SMITHSBURG -- During the more than two decades that brothers George and Mark Knight have worked in law enforcement, one of them was shot and the other was involved in a shootout, but each has trust in the other's training and experience to get them home.

Lt. Mark Knight of the Washington County Sheriff's Department and Officer George Knight Jr., formerly a sergeant with the Hagerstown Police Department, even served together for several years on the Special Response Team, a SWAT team of combined resources from the city and the county.

The older brother, George Knight, retired from the Hagerstown Police Department in 2005 after 25 years on the force. He joined Smithsburg's police department in February.

"When I was there and still on the team with him, I didn't worry as much because I know our training and his experience level keeps him and everyone else around him safe," George Knight said about his brother's continued involvement with the Special Response Team. "Now that I'm away from it and he's there, I do worry about it because I'm not there to see it firsthand."

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Before he started working for the Hagerstown Police Department, George Knight spent four years in the Marine Corps, serving as a drill sergeant from 1978 to 1980.

He liked the structure of the military, and police work offered that, he said.

"It's something different every day," he said.

George Knight remembers teaming up with now-Sheriff Douglas Mullendore to bring down a major marijuana distribution ring operating out of a pool hall downtown. That case took them to San Antonio, Texas, and across the border into Mexico, but they were able to shut down the ring, which had been providing between 25 and 50 pounds of marijuana to Hagerstown each week, he said.

Another Narcotics Task Force case took him to San Francisco to execute search warrants and break up a cocaine ring, he said.

As a patrol sergeant, sharing his experience with younger officers was one of the most rewarding aspects of his career, George Knight said.

Their father, George Knight Sr., was a first sergeant with the Maryland National Guard. Police trained at the armory, and their father had many friends with the state police, Mark Knight said.

Law enforcement was a lifelong dream for Mark Knight, he said. He started working at the Washington County Detention Center in 1985 and transferred to patrol in 1986. He now supervises seven officers in the Criminal Investigative Division.

"Having a brother, let alone a younger brother, climb through the ranks of his department to make lieutenant and hold the position he holds ... that was a proud day for me," George Knight said.

"We both know how dangerous it can be, we were both trained to accept whatever situation comes at you," Mark Knight said of serving with his brother. "I knew he could handle himself, he was trained to do his job."

SWAT members have a lifesaving mission, whether it's saving a hostage or bringing a situation to a peaceful conclusion, Mark Knight said.

Recently, he was at the scene of a 45-hour standoff between police and a wanted man in a Hancock motel.

A mission accomplished is when "you go through something like that and everybody gets to go home afterwards," he said.

That's what happened in Hancock.

When George Knight was involved in a shooting while chasing suspects a few years ago, it was "a bit unnerving," his brother said.

George Knight suffered a "grazing wound" to his forehead when a man dressed in dark clothing pulled out a gun and fired at him, The Herald-Mail reported in September 2002.

"It scared me as much as it scared him," Mark Knight was quoted as saying at the time.

Knight remembers picking up his brother's wife and taking her to the hospital that day.

"To know he was actually shot ... the police officer part of that disappears, he's my brother," Mark Knight said Tuesday.

That feeling hits home any time a brother in blue is shot or killed, he said.

The most notable incident that Knight has responded to involved another brother in blue shot in the line of duty.

Knight, who lives in Smithsburg, was called out Dec. 19, 2007, the night that Smithsburg Police Officer Christopher Shane Nicholson was killed.

Douglas Wayne Pryor, 30, of Smithsburg, is charged with killing Nicholson. He faces the death penalty if convicted. His trial is set to begin in May 2009 in Montgomery County Circuit Court.

Knight couldn't discuss much of what happened that night because the case still is in litigation, he said.

But that night, he was called to the aid of another police officer, went into CID commander mode and also was with the Special Response Team that apprehended Pryor after a shootout. It's the most serious case he's been involved with, Knight said.

But closing cases, and bringing victims closure, makes the job rewarding, he said.

His brother joined the Smithsburg Police Department a few months after Nicholson's death.

He missed police work and "the opportunity to work in my hometown was going to be a challenge, a unique experience," George Knight said.

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