FISHERS, Ind. — A visitation was held Friday for fallen Ellwood officer Noah Shahnawaz. The 24-year-old Army veteran and Fishers native was killed last Sunday in the line of duty.
For five hours, people from across the country came to ITOWN Church in Fishers to pay their respects, including law enforcement officers from as far away as New York and Texas and Shahnawaz’s comrades in arms.
Of the group of soldiers who served together in the 591st Military Police Company, they say they keep in touch often. It was the first time in a while that they were reunited, and under circumstances they could never have imagined.
“Everyone will tell you it was worth it. I came from Texas, but I would have come from Mars if that was what it took,” said Gary Harris, who served with Shahnawaz.
Shahnawaz’s brothers and sisters-in-arms, who are some of his closest friends, have come from places like New York, Texas and Hawaii, and said that’s not even a small fraction of the people he’s influenced, who still serving around the world or those unable to travel to Indiana.
Julio Hernandez said he would give anything to be there for one of his closest friends, who he also considers part of his own family. He shared his favorite memories with FOX59 in a video chat from overseas, where he is currently on duty.
“Just hours of talking to him, hours of spending time with him and the memories that are hard to fathom now to think that he’s gone,” Hernandez said. “Now I have to go through the steps of realizing that this is reality and the grieving process.”
Shahnawaz’s comrades said the fallen hero had dreamed of being an officer. It was a dream he fulfilled until he took his last breath.
“It wasn’t just work for him, it was fun. He loved going to work,” said Nicholas Tracy, who also served with Shahnawaz. “I never heard him complain about having to work. It was so important to him and just a big part of his life. I mean he probably talked about it absolutely every day.
“It affected a lot of people and I think it was mostly to do with his ambitions and his age; how young he was. He was just out of the army. I think it’s a painful story,” Tracy said.
Shahnawaz served with the Ellwood Police Department for 11 months, but his career in law enforcement began long before that, as he served as a military police officer.
Tracy said the two often backed each other up on traffic stops and other calls during their time as military police officers. It is these memories of “Shanny” that he and his brothers will cherish forever.
“In the military, they always say look left or right to see someone doing the right thing if you don’t know what to do,” Harris said. “He was always the guy that I always looked to, as you know, to guide me in my military career.”
Mark Thompson said Shahnawaz was one of the driving forces behind him striving to become a sergeant.
“He always said he would do it first, he would be the first. He pushed me hard,” Thompson said.
The group shared laughs and tears as they reminisced about their brother, who had the ability to light up any room he entered. They also hope people know who he is, even beyond the uniform he wore.
“It’s about much more than his work. He was a caring person, interested in us, checking on us, just spending a lot of quality time with us,” Tracy said. “He just cared a lot and he’s more than … he was more than just a cop. He was a brother, friend and family member.
“If we text him or get in trouble, he’s always there,” Thompson said.
“He’s always been reliable. He was always there when you needed him. He was so loving,” Hernandez said. “I love being with my family and it’s always been fun to include him in my family.”
Hernandez said Shahnawaz was amazing to his son, who was very young when he first met him. When he came, Hernandez and his wife shared that Shahnawaz would watch Disney movies with their son, go to the park or help out with whatever was needed.
“My son loved it. He couldn’t say that Shahnawaz and Shani were stupid to him. I asked him his name and he said “It’s Noah”. The only person I can remember who would call him Noah, at least in my house, was my son,” Hernandez recalled.
His friends remember Shahnawaz as a keen player who had the ability to bring communities of strangers together, a kind, caring and loving person, with a heart of gold. They also said that the best thing about him was definitely his infectious laugh or giggle as others described it.
“I’m not going to be able to hear this in person again, and it sucks,” said Hernandez, who plans to visit his fallen brother in Indiana when he returns home.
“The way he jumps up and down when he gets excited about something, definitely his laugh and his smile,” Thompson said as she described her favorite traits of Shani.
No one seems to disagree.
“You can tell him from a mile away. I mean that was one of the funniest laughs because it’s one of those laughs that just makes you want to laugh even if you don’t understand what you’re laughing at,” Harris said. “You know right away that it’s supposed to be fun. It’s instantly contagious.
His brothers in arms thanked everyone who came to show support for Shahnawaz and his family and said they hoped to see a packed procession tomorrow to pay tribute to the man who gave his life for his community.
“To his family, I just send them my deepest condolences,” Hernandez said. “As much as we believe he was our family in some way; they were this real family and i know they hurt more than anything.
Funeral service and procession information
Funeral services for fallen Ellwood officer Noah Shahnawaz will be held Saturday at ITOWN Church in Fishers. The funeral will start at 11am, but you will see the police officers start arriving at 8:30am. Officials from across the state and country are expected to attend the funeral.
Indiana State Police announced the procession route that will take Shahnavaz from ITOWN Church to Crown Hill Cemetery in Indianapolis.
You can learn more about the route and important information by visiting this link.
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