PLAINFIELD, Ind. – A blood drive in Plainfield on Tuesday was held in honor of fallen Hoosier officers, including Elwood Police Department Officer Noah Shahnavaz.
The Indiana Law Enforcement Academy (ILEA) hosted the event at its facility in Plainfield, commemorating Indiana police officers who have died in the line of duty. The event specifically memorialized Shahnavaz, who just recently died in the line of duty.
Shahnavaz was gunned down during a traffic stop on July 31 and later laid to rest by his family and community members on Aug. 6.
ILEA asked people to raise their sleeves and join them for a drive to honor Indiana police officers who made the ultimate sacrifice in the line of duty, as well as the officers who continue to serve their communities.
“We felt it was important to give back in some way. Quite often I get asked by people, ‘how can I contribute?’ Of course, we don’t want them out there investigating crimes, but they can help by coming here, honoring our fallen officers by giving back a little bit, even if it’s a pint of blood,” said Tim Horty, executive director of ILEA.
Not only is this a good way to pay it forward, but Horty said it’s a personal way, too.
“You know, you can donate money, or you can give your time, but to give blood, I mean that’s quite a special calling and we are so flattered that people are willing to come forward and do just that, I mean giving a part of themselves back to our community in recognition of fallen officers,” Horty shared.
ILEA said, in total, 50 people came out throughout the four-hour event to donate blood. There were 41 total pints of blood collected. Seven people also donated double red cells.
Melissa Cavanaugh, a nurse at Eskenazi Health, who has been in her field for about 40 years, said she grateful to have the opportunity to come out Tuesday.
“I think that’s so many times when these things happen, we feel really helpless,” said Cavanaugh. “This type of event is a really good opportunity to give back and to honor those that we have lost, who have done so much for us.”
One pint of blood can save up to three lives, according to medical professionals. Red blood cells may be used to help accident victims, surgical patients and people with anemia, according to Versiti, who hosted the blood drive with ILEA.
Working in a hospital has shown Cavanaugh the importance of blood supply, especially for trauma patients who may need it. She was glad to donate on Tuesday, while also honoring those who are no longer able to, like Shahnavaz, who she said was at the forefront of her mind.
“Also keeping Sierra, Officer Burton and her family in our thoughts and prayers as well,” said Cavanaugh.
The event reminds Horty and his colleagues how raw and recent the tragedies are that have faced law enforcement in Indiana.
“It is raw, and Noah was part of the 226th class and when he was killed, we hadn’t even graduated the 227th class yet,” Horty said. “He worked out in this very gym, he sat in the very classrooms that we are teaching our youngsters now and so it is, it’s personal.”
The event also comes days after Richmond Police Officer Seara Burton was taken off of life support and moved to a hospice care facility back in Indiana. Burton was shot during a traffic stop that took place on Aug. 10. She had been in the intensive care unit at Miami Valley Hospital in Dayton, Ohio since the shooting.
“Within 10 days both of them were shot, for staff whenever it happens, it’s a kick in the gut,” said Captain David Younce, who oversees in-service training at ILEA, and has been with the academy for more than 25 years.
“Then to have the second one, it’s like catching it on both sides of the face and we as a staff, we always try to do a sit down, like okay is there something we’re not doing or something we can do better we really comb through those reports in situations as thoroughly as we can,” said Younce.
The Richmond Police Department said Burton’s condition has not changed much since she was taken off of life support but is closely monitoring her condition. The city will provide updates as they are available.
Younce said, in their own ways, Burton and Shahnavaz were both standouts in their classes at ILEA.
“Even though we have classes of over 100 students, there are times you meet these people, they stand head and shoulders above everyone else,” said Younce. “Noah just had a special — a gift of leadership and the passion that he had for this job, he was like ‘this is why God put me on this earth and this is what I’m here to do.'”
Younce said Shahnavaz treated everyone with kindness and respect. He wasn’t shocked to hear stories from fellow law enforcement officers, Shahnavaz’s brothers and sisters in arms, or even strangers that he left a significant mark on during his time in the service, on the force and in his personal life.
For nearly four weeks, as Officer Burton has continued her fight, the community and her brothers and sisters in blue have shared the way she’s also impacted them.
“I was just so happy when I learned that she was K9. I’m thinking, that’s just perfect for her and I’m not surprised,” said Younce. “She was one that kind of demonstrated her passion through her actions and not as verbally, not outward as Noah.”
Younce said there was a calendar year where at least half a dozen officers across Indiana were killed in the line of duty. Recent tragedies have once again brought forth that pain of losing an officer or watching one be critically injured while serving their communities.
“I mean, my heart literally ached. It hurt. I’m like Lord, no more please. It’s never easy,” said Younce. “We’re the only academy in the state that’s a resident academy, so our students live here and you get to know people when they’re here 24 hours a day, 5 days a week.”