ROCKY MOUNT — Ten years ago this week, a murder devastated a small town. A man shot and killed the Sharpsburg police chief.
Now, one of the chief’s relatives wants to honor his uncle’s love for police work by wearing a shield on his own chest.
As the final days of training in the Rocky Mount Police Academy came to a close, Jonathan Denotter had his mentor in mind, his uncle.
“It’s pretty important to make sure I follow in his footsteps,” he said.
His uncle, Sharpsburg Police Chief Wayne Hathaway, was shot and killed in the line of duty in 1997 while responding to a domestic call. The suspect also shot his own wife.
Denotter was 15 at the time. His family just marked the 10th anniversary of Hathaway's death this week.
“It’s an everyday thing. Somehow, some way, we always remember Wayne. For me, by simply sometimes looking at the clock, you'll see 6:01 on the clock. That was his unit number,” Denotter said.
His love and respect for Hathaway is a big part of what inspired Denotter to become a police officer.
“Knowing that I could have a positive impact just like he did, that makes a person feel good,” he said.
But Denotter’s family is concerned about him following in his uncle’s footsteps.
“Oh yeah, my mother – she’s concerned every day about how I’m doing things, making sure I’m safe out there, even in training,” he said.
Denotter has experience with dangerous jobs. He is a National Guardsman who spent nearly a year in Iraq. He believes his late uncle would be proud and said he learned about good police work from Hathaway.
“He really opened his heart up to people in the community by, you know, listening to them by going out there and seeing what they needed,” Denotter said.
That’s what this police officer-in-training hopes to bring to the streets on his beat. Denotter is scheduled to graduate from the Rocky Mount police training academy on July 25.
The man who shot his uncle, Abner Nicholson, remains on death row.