CENTRAL TEXAS — The Meridian Police Department is mourning the loss of one of their own. Officer Wayne "Butch" Nowell died this week from COVID-19.
Nowell had only been with the department for a short time, but his death is a big loss for the community. Outside of Pioneer Bank, just steps from the Meridian Police Department, sits Nowell's patrol car. It's become a memorial for the officer, adorned with flowers and parting messages.
Nowell died on Dec. 29 due to COVID complications at age 65. He fell ill just before Christmas and later suffered a fatal heart attack, brought about by the Coronavirus.
Blake Johnson, the chief of the Meridian Police Department, says he leaves behind a legacy of inspiration and dedication.
"He had a heart to serve. The community members that met Butch and knew Butch know him as a person who was serving the community," said Johnson.
Nowell had a long history in law enforcement, most of which was spent in Johnson County. Butch, as friends called him, joined the Meridian police force in October. In his brief time there, he made lasting impressions, even among those who only knew him in passing.
Rick Goon, a former police officer, had a chance encounter with Nowell a week before he died. Goon ran a stop sign and Nowell made sure to pull him over. Goon says even in that brief meeting, he could tell that Nowell was truly a special public servant.
"He was one of the most polite and best officers I've ever encountered, even though I've been a policeman," said Goon.
Goon also used to be an officer in Johnson County, and he knew some of the officers that Nowell trained. It was easy for him to see the impact Nowell left.
When the news broke of Nowell's death, Meridian, a town of fifteen-hundred people, was quick to express their appreciation for him.
"Everybody, everybody that's commented on Facebook bragged on him," said Goon.
Butch's death was a major blow to the police department. Johnson says his skill set made him impossible to replace.
"To have a guy that has his age, his experience, and his drive to be in law enforcement is just, it's not a combination you get with many applicants," Johnson said.
In Nowell's final days, even while seriously ill, he maintained a positive attitude and was eager to get back in the line of duty. According to Johnson, Nowell joked that he hoped to return soon so it wouldn't affect his probation.
Those wishing to pay respects to Nowell can leave a tribute at his patrol vehicle located at Pioneer Bank on Morgan Street.