Slain Indiana officer remembered across state

(Provided Photo/Franklin College)

MERRILLVILLE, Ind. (AP) — A northwestern Indiana police officer fatally shot in the line of duty is being remembered across the state as a leader committed to making a difference.

Merrillville Officer Nickolaus Schultz died Sunday, two days after a man wearing body armor shot the 24-year-old officer in the head during an apparent ambush. Officials said 33-year-old Michael Hrnciar broke into a Merrillville condominium from which he had been evicted and fatally shot himself Friday night after firing at Schultz.

Schultz was a 2009 graduate of nearby Lowell High School and was an offensive lineman on the school’s 2007 Class 4A state runner-up football team.

Schultz had just finished his one-year probationary period with the Merrillville Police Department since being hired in July 2013 in the 35,000-person town just south of Gary.

“If I had to hire any other officers, I wish there were 100 applicants that showed up just like him. He was a real good kid,” Merrillville Police Chief Joseph Petruch told the Post-Tribune. “He was always proactive and got along with everybody.”

Schultz’s black-shrouded squad car was parked in front of the town government complex on Sunday and black bunting was placed around the sign atop the building.

Lowell football coach Keith Kilmer, who was an assistant coach when Schultz played on the team, said the officer’s death was a big blow for the rural community about 15 miles south of Merrillville. Schultz’s father coaches the middle school football team and his sister helps coach middle school girls track and cross country.

“He always did things right,” Kilmer told The Times of Munster. “He was personable. He made sure everybody felt welcome.”

Dozens of Franklin College students gathered Sunday at a campus vigil for Schultz, who graduated last year from the from 1,000-student private liberal arts college near Indianapolis.

Jimmy Qualters, who was a captain of the Franklin football team with Schultz, said word spread quickly over the weekend among students and graduates about the shooting.

“We were just hoping and praying for a miracle,” Qualters told WTHR-TV. “But overall, we know that God has an ultimate plan and it’s just something we have to accept.”

Schultz is the third Indiana police officer gunned down on the job this summer. Gary Patrolman Jeffrey Westerfield, 47, was found slain in his patrol car on July 6, the day after Indianapolis Officer Perry Renn, 51, was killed during a shootout in an alley.

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