Fallen officers recognized
Former Nappanee law enforcement officers were recognized in a ceremony held in front of the Nappanee Police Department Tuesday evening. The event was in honor of National Police Week, which was spurred by the 1962 proclamation of President John F. Kennedy to designate May 15 as Peace Officers Memorial Day and the week in which the date falls, Police Week. During the national holiday thousands of attendees converge at Senate Park in Washington D.C. to honor those tragically lost in the line of duty while worldwide, an estimated 25,000 to 40,000 gather to honor those serving as well as those lost.
The mood of the small crowd of officers and community members present on Lincoln Street in Nappanee were no less regarded as the memorial recognition hit those present very close to home. Nov, 3, 1988 Sgt. Brant “Butch” Nine paid the ultimate price after more than six years on the Nappanee force, while in the line of duty, being shot by his own gun in the hands of a man attempting forgery at Nine’s brother-in-law’s jewelry store. He was 41 years old.
His murderer, Michael R. Steele, was then shot by Nine’s Nappanee P.D. partner, Phillip Hochstetler Jr. (taking a bullet himself), before he was arrested. In a tragic irony, June 29, 1994 at 32 years of age, while he was a detective sergeant for the Kosciusko County Sheriff’s Department, Hochstetler was killed by gunfire while investigating a burglary suspect. He had served for four years in Nappanee and two in Kosciusko County.
Department Chaplain Terry Tyler, one of the speakers at the ceremony, quoted Raymond Chandler’s Phillip Marlow character from his book The Simple Act of Murder: “In everything that can be called art there is a quality of redemption. It may be pure tragedy, if it is high tragedy, and it may be pity and irony, and it may be the raucous laughter of the strong man. But down these mean streets a man must go who is not himself mean, who is neither tarnished nor afraid. The detective in this kind of story must be such a man.”
“The streets today are much ‘meaner’ than the ones in the 1940s and ‘50s.” he said. Tyler added that, while he felt the word “hero” was one used a little too loosely in regular speech, “I can’t think of a truer definition of a hero … than the men and women that wear these blue uniforms.”
Sgt. Nine’s widow, Marah Lee, said she appreciated the sentiments given to remember her husband. “I’m thankful that they are doing this for all the officers and that they still remember Butch and Phil.” Recently, the Nine family presented a list of names opposed to the clemency request of Sgt. Nine’s killer, who still claims the shooting was an accident. Three hearings were held before the request was overturned. Nine said he can apply for clemency each year. Nappanee Police Chief Julie Dijkstra presented the refurbished memorial plaque for Sgt. Nine (regularly displayed in the NPD office) to the Nine family during the ceremony.
Another revered Nappanee peacekeeper was remembered, former chief (for 11 years) Richard “Dean” Middaugh. He passed away May 9. Other speakers included Nappanee P.D. representatives Captain Dana Hollar, Chaplain Darrell Flaming, and Nappanee Mayor Larry Thompson, who assured, “We’ll never forget their memory in our community.”
Moving numbers by NorthWood’s Dawning Generations reflected gratitude for those have paid the ultimate sacrifice as well as those still serving the “mean streets.”