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Slain Smithsburg Police officer lauded as a hero

May 14, 2010|By DAN DEARTH
  • Former Smithsburg Police Chief Charles R. Stanford looks Friday at the memorial in the town's Veterans Park he designed for slain Smithsburg Police Officer Christopher Shane Nicholson. A police week ceremony Friday honored Nicholson and Smithsburg Police Officer Jonathan Witmer.
By Kevin G. Gilbert, Staff Photographer

SMITHSBURG -- Slain Smithsburg Police Officer Christopher Shane Nicholson was lauded as a hero and a credit to his profession Friday during a special ceremony that was held in his honor at Veterans Park.

Nicholson, 25, was fatally shot Dec. 19, 2007, while trying to stop a man who was being sought for an earlier killing.

A host of dignitaries, including Smithsburg Mayor Mildred "Mickey" Myers and several state politicians, were on hand to dedicate a statue to Nicholson and name two thoroughfares in his honor.

The entrance to Veterans Park was named "Officer Nicholson Way," and two signs will be posted in each direction of Md. 64 near Rowe Road that read "Dedicated to Peace Officer Christopher Nicholson."

"It's rewarding," said Desiree Grimes, who was engaged to Nicholson at the time of his death. "He deserves everything they do for him. He gave his life ... Chris would just be in awe of everything that has happened for him."

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Friday's events at Veterans Park coincided with National Police Week 2010, which began Sunday and ends today.

Grimes said she visited the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial in Washington, D.C., earlier this week to pay tribute to her fiance.

About half of the 100 or so people who attended Friday's event were from law enforcement agencies across Washington County. In addition to honoring Nicholson, Smithsburg Police Chief George Knight presented one of his officers, Jonathan Witmer, with a lifesaving award for responding to a call to help a person who had overdosed on narcotics last year off Crystal Falls Drive.

As speakers praised Nicholson, people in the audience fanned themselves to cool off in the humid weather. Taps was played by Chris Taylor, a student at Smithsburg High School.

Stefanie Deener, 19, and Lacey Weaver, 20, said before the ceremony began that they knew Nicholson from the days when he used to patrol the area around Smithsburg High School.

"He was there every afternoon when school let out," Weaver said. "He was just nice to everybody. He helped everyone out."

Paul Highbarger, Nicholson's stepfather, said after the ceremony that his stepson almost died at birth because of a severe heart defect.

"God saved Chris then because He would need him later," Highbarger said. "God only knows what he prevented that night."

Nicholson's mother, Karen Highbarger, said she wanted to thank everyone who has stepped forward to offer their support.

"I feel very honored and very blessed," she said. "The community and the police family has supported us. It's been a blessing."

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