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Artist shares chance encounter with Elwood officer hours before his death

Posted at 6:27 PM, Aug 03, 2022

ELWOOD — It's an example of how a fallen Elwood police officer touched the community he served.

A man shot and killed Elwood Police Department Officer Noah Shahnavaz early Sunday morning during a traffic stop in Madison County.

Hours before he died, Shahnavaz had a chance encounter with a local artist.

Outside of Joyner's in downtown Elwood, you will find an American flag mural painted on the side of the entire building.

"The symbol of the flag stands for freedom, and sometimes we lose sight of that. But it is real, but it did come with a cost," Mark Joyner said.

The owner of Joyner's is referring to lives lost.

But the stars and stripes are a symbol that goes beyond the flag. The mural is bigger than most started as a project before the community was faced with tragedy.

The uncanny timing of the mural is what has touched the painter behind it.

"Everything that could go wrong, goes wrong," Theodore Winters, the painter of the mural said.

The mural was supposed to be finished Saturday, but after complications Winters pushed it back.

The small moment of fate changed the true meaning of the painting.

Saturday evening, Winters said he was working on finishing the mural when a police officer stopped by complimenting the artwork.

"He had a presence," Winters said. "He looked at you and when he smiled it made you smile back."

That conversation moved Winters, he says he remembers the man's character, the way he carried himself.

He says the officer was strong, proud, and a kind man.

"He looked at me, he smiled he got in his cop car and drove down the street," Winters said.

The next morning, Winters would finish the mural.

"I go home I am watching the news, it was officer Noah that I talked to Saturday night, it was him," Winters said.

Officer Shahnavaz was killed in the line of duty not long after the short encounter with Winters.

"It's almost like right after he left we raised the flag that is almost 400 feet big," Winters said.

It's a symbol that he says goes beyond the original meaning. Now it's a focal piece, members of the community uniting as one.

"You have people who are Republicans, Democrats, people who are Libertarians — they're not politicizing the flag," Winters said.

Instead, residents are seeing the mural as a memorial for an officer who laid it all on the line.

"I think he was a hero, I think he was a hero and I think that it very rare that we have people like him in America," Winters said.

The mural will be dedicated in memory of Officer Shahnavaz later this month.

It was originally expected to happen Saturday, but the family moved it back for the funeral.

Theodore Winters can be found on Instagram here.