AVON — Trading patches is a tradition in the law enforcement community, and the Avon Police Department is hoping a small gesture in honor of Samaria Blackwell will bring some comfort to her family.
Samaria was one of the eight people killed at the Indianapolis FedEx facility late Thursday evening.
Family members have said she loved helping others and dreamed of becoming a police officer, but that dream was cut short.
After hearing Samaria’s story, Avon Police Department Deputy Chief Brian Nugent said they were inspired by her life and her desire to serve and immediately tried to come up with a way to honor her and show support to her family.
“Just was really moved by the fact that this young woman had such drive, ambition and desire to serve others,” Nugent said. “And it just really stuck with us as a department and so it was at that point we thought, ‘what could we do?’ You know, what role could we fulfill as an agency outside Marion County that we could do to be supportive of that family.”
So they put out a post on social media, calling all agencies in Indiana and across the country to send in their patches.
“The sharing of law enforcement uniform patches is kind of part of the subculture,” Nugent said. “This happens from agency to agency, from employees to employee. And so, as a department we reached out to the family and we did speak to them for a short period of time and they were very welcoming of this effort on our behalf.”
The Blackwell family is calling it "Patches for Stitches." Samaria got the nickname "Stitches" after she went to the hospital to get stitches for an eye injury during a basketball tournament. The moment she was discharged, family spokesperson Chaplain Matthew Barnes said she wanted to go right back in and continue playing.
It’s only been one day, and the response has already been overwhelming. Since their message went out on social media, Nugent says they have received messages from departments as far as California and even outside the country.
“So far, we’ve gotten a pretty positive response from the communities around us, across the nation and outside of the United States,” Nugent said. “I know we’ve been overwhelmed with several agencies showing their support and willingness to send one into the family.”
But Nugent says the response hasn’t really surprised him.
“Community policing transcends things that happen before emergencies. And our responsibility to our community, we feel, is to support people after these incidents and to be there for them through the entire process, but also helping them to understand that they’re supported,” Nugent said.
Nugent says as soon as they finish collecting the patches, they will set up a time to meet with the family and present them with the patches and a detailed list of where each one came from.
The Blackwell family spokesperson, Chaplain Matthew Barnes wrote in an email about this gesture: "The Blackwell family has indicated that Samaria would have loved for her family to receive these police department patches from around the state and country. The family views this as a wonderful way to honor their daughter and sister who always considered herself a "Caretaker." They greatly appreciate this gesture of comaraderie from those whom she admired so much."
Any officers or agencies wishing to provide a patch can mail them to:
Avon Police Department
6550 East U.S. Hwy 36
Agencies near Central Indiana can deliver their patch to the Avon Police Department or direct message their office through social media to coordinate a meet-up.