MADISON COUNTY, Ind. — People around the globe are standing with the Elwood community in solidarity, mourning the loss of an officer shot and killed Sunday morning in the line of duty.
Officer Noah Shahnavaz, 24, served on the Elwood Police Department for 11 months, but his career in law enforcement began well before that. Shahnavaz was a U.S. Army veteran and served with the 591st Military Police Company out of Fort Bliss, Texas.
“That man was beyond a rookie,” shared Dale Askeland, a close friend of the fallen hero.
“He was everything you’d want in a police officer; every attribute, every characteristic,” added Nolan Demers, another close friend who served with Shahnavaz. “He just pursued his dreams and he wouldn’t let anything get in the way of that.”
As Christopher Schmidt shared, all Shahnavaz ever wanted to do was become a police officer so that he could help people.
“When he got out he was immediately applying for any law enforcement agency he could get,” said Schmidt.
It was that shared interest in a law enforcement career that Nicholas Tracy said brought him and Shahnavaz even closer during their time in the service.
“That was something that me and Noah bonded over. When I had joined the Army, I had joined knowing that I was going to be a police officer once I was done, and that is something that we bonded over and constantly talked about,” said Tracy.
He said the two would often back each other on traffic stops and other calls during their time as military police officers.
“He wanted to be a cop so bad he took it literally to the next level, and whenever he would not be patrolling, he would be playing a cop simulator game and playing that and role playing as a police officer and doing all of the stuff you could do in the game,” said Mark Thompson.
On Monday afternoon, FOX59 spoke with several soldiers who served alongside Shahnavaz in the 591st Military Police Company. To them, he was more than just a fellow servicemember; he was their brother, “Shanny.”
“This group, seeing all of these people in here, just goes to show how diverse we are. It goes to show how nice and great of a person he was, so likeable, that all of these people can probably call him their best friend one way or another,” said Demers. “He relates to so many people and had an impact on so many people in so many different ways.”
The group joined on Zoom, logging on from places like Hawaii, Texas, Florida, and North Carolina to honor and remember their brother, who they said lived his life helping others.
“I had a lot of friends when I was in the Army, but Shanny was just so reliable,” said Tracy.
If you ask friends of Shahnavaz how they would describe him, you’ll likely hear adjectives like “kind, loyal, funny, smart, and caring,” but another word that instantly comes to their mind is “leader.”
That answer drew in a round of head nods and agreements among the group, who shared, they feel the same way.
“He was the reason I strived so hard to become a sergeant, because he challenged everybody,” said Thompson.
Thompson said, the day he made sergeant, he looked at his brother and told him he was the person that motivated him to go for it, as he gave his speech.
“I did that exact same thing I did today. I cried like a baby. I just remember me and him sitting there afterwards and he was like, ‘Really?’ I was like, ‘Yeah, it’s the truth,'” Thompson said.
Even Shahnavaz’s peers who held higher ranks than the former Iron Spartan Sergeant said they learned invaluable lessons from him.
“He was so smart. He knew his job. He literally took me under his wing and showed me everything,” said Miranda Mcallister. “I hope his parents know, he was one of the best soldiers that I’ve ever had in my career.”
“He was one of my first soldiers I had under me. He was holding me together more than I was holding him,” Decker shared. “Every time I have a big achievement here, I remember it probably wouldn’t have happened if he wasn’t here pushing me.”
For more than 30 minutes, the group shared memories and some of the things they hope people who never had the opportunity to meet Shahnavaz, could know. Some of those memories came through tears, while others were shared through laughter, as the group remembered the joy this young man brought into their lives.
“You never saw an ounce of anger in him. No matter how messed up a situation was, he found a way to laugh it off with that iconic, distinctive laugh that everyone knows,” said Askeland.
Several friends we spoke with deployed overseas with Shahnavaz and said even when they were across the world, they always had each other to get through it.
“It was literally just us bonding together and figuring out ways to entertain ourselves in a small location. It was almost like doing dumb teenager stuff,” Tracy said. “I think that’s when a lot of us got really close.”
“We didn’t have any other family members. We barely knew each other or where we came from, so we would literally just sit there in what we call the smoke circle, and we would just sit there and talk for hours about what we wanted to do, in 120 degree weather,” Thompson added.
The group said, they always knew the young man with a heart of gold, a laugh that could be recognized from anywhere, and a deep passion for pursuing a career in law enforcement, would leave a significant impact on countless people.
“He brought communities upon communities together,” said Schmidt. “He really brought so many people together and it’s crazy how many people I’ve talked to in the last two days that are touched by him. He really was a brother. There’s nothing past that. It’s exactly what he was and I think the most remembrance we can give is that he was an amazing guy. We fought like brothers as well, but that’s just what a family is.”
We found even more people who considered Shahnavaz a member of their family and said he did the same.
Amanda Ramirez, whose husband is currently deployed overseas, said she remembers the day like yesterday when she met Shahnavaz. She said Shahnavaz reached out to her via text, sharing that he got her phone number from her husband.
“‘He told me that you make good food, and I’m hungry, can you make me something?’ I said, ‘Sure, I’ll make you a plate,'” said Ramirez.
Like many others, she finds herself in disbelief that a young man with so much love for others, is gone. She said she re-read the text messages in her phone to and from Shahnavaz, something she will forever cherish.
“Noah would always talk about his family and [how] he loved his family, he missed his family,” said Ramirez, who said he always had a seat at her table because to them, he was also family.
Ramirez recalled how Shahnavaz would never question when he was asked to help with something, like the time she needed to move a mattress that was delivered, but her husband wasn’t home.
More important to her than anything else, was the way that Shahnavaz treated her son, who is autistic.
“We would just watch Disney movies and they’re all just sitting on the couch watching a Disney movie with my son,” she said, sharing photos of the moments she treasures.
“We will always be there for his family with whatever they need,” said Ramirez.