National News

Inspired by the man who solved her father's murder, new officer wants to be the change for Baltimore

Posted November 17, 2017 1:08 p.m. EST

— Baltimore is in the red.

The city is seeing it, feeling it...stained by it.

From the blood on the street to the ink on the board in homicide, names are becoming numbers and numbers are becoming records.

On an unseasonably warm October day, Homicide Detective Brian Lewis' team is up.

He is charged with writing up the warrant his team needs to enter the 2 story walk up in West Baltimore where a man was found shot to death in his bed.

"Unfortunately this job does change you," Lewis says as he drives to the courthouse for the judge's signature, "It does harden you. It does make you jaded, it does make you....a little bit tougher than you really should be."

It's not only a defense mechanism Lewis says, it's necessary to survive working homicide in Baltimore for nine years and none of those more challenging than 2017 with all of its mind-numbing depravity.

Baltimore is on a near murder a day pace to shatter even this city's worst year of 353 in 1993.

"I want to hold on to that humanity part of me. I don't want this job to change me any more than it already has….it does get difficult to not become jaded," Lewis said.

Bria Hightower is a police recruit.

This fall she wrapped up her field training in the Eastern District.

"I want to be a homicide detective," Hightower said, "I want to be the change for Baltimore City. I want to make a difference. I can relate to a lot of victims out here. I feel like if you been through the situation, you can relate more than someone who hasn't."

Bria's situation came when she was just 15, when her father became a number 199 of 234 in 2008.

"It still hurts because you know how…sometimes I wish I can call them up and be like, dad, what should I do in this situation or how should I handle this and...I can't, I can't."

And it will be a lifetime struggle to ever realize she never can again.

It was nine years ago, almost to the day, that Bria's dad was stabbed to death; murder is not a pain that fades.

Detective Lewis remembers that night too, the 45 year old father of two was attacked from the back he remembers, it was just his second murder case.

"William Hightower, the victim, was coming home from work. He still had the grocery bag in his hand when he came up on the porch," Lewis remembers.

Bria said she knew who did it almost immediately and watched closely at the way Detective Lewis went about solving her father's case, hanging on his every word, taking notes in her journal.

"He was so compassionate and throughout the whole case he stayed in contact with us. There was not a day that he didn't call to give us some type of information," Hightower said.

Including the day Lewis called to say he arrested the man she just knew did it from day one, her father's girlfriend's ex-boyfriend.

Hightower thought then, as she does now, solving murder is what she needed to do.

"I am just glad that I am able to you know, be a motivation for some people like how Detective Lewis was a motivation for me."

And so at the end of October, Bria Hightower the police trainee became Officer Hightower, she one of 33 new cops in her class to help replenish the ranks of the Baltimore Police Department.

Her badge pinned by the man who closed the case on her father and unwittingly opened a near decade long drive to do for others what he did for her.

"Hi Detective Lewis!" Hightower shouted across the graduation reception.

"Your dad would be so incredibly proud," Lewis said as he hugged the young officer, "so proud of you."

Completing her journey from sorrow to strength, from victim to policewoman.

"It feels so amazing," Officer Hightower said, "I was waiting for this day for so long and it's finally here and I just feel so joyful."

Now able to use her new found joy to help a city that this year, is in a whole lot of pain.