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'He told me he loved being a police officer' | Elwood mural to be dedicated to fallen Officer Noah Shahnavaz

The American flag mural on the side of Joyner's Restaurant in Elwood took on new meaning after the line-of-duty death of Ofc. Noah Shahnavaz.

ELWOOD, Ind. — The City of Elwood continues to mourn the loss of fallen Officer Noah Shahnavaz as touching tributes pour in for the beloved officer.  

“I think most people are still in shock of what happened,” said Mark Joyner, owner of Joyner’s Restaurant in Elwood. 

But a new mural on Joyner’s old-fashioned diner is bringing an unexpected sense of comfort to the small community. He said it was originally meant to promote his business, but has now taken on a new meaning. 

“Hopefully to all the police officers and the firemen of the community, they can drive by and say, 'There are people who care, and there’s some hope,'” Joyner said.  

It’s why they are dedicating it to Shahnavaz. The idea came after a chance encounter last Saturday between the officer and the Indianapolis artist who painted the artwork. 

“A police officer pulls up right next to the mural, and he looks at the mural and he rolls down the window and says, ‘Hey, I like your artwork. I like the mural,'” said pop artist Theodore Winters, who specializes in painting the 1950s. 

RELATED: Details released on procession route, how to pay respects to Elwood Officer Noah Shahnavaz

Winters said he thanked the officer for his service and called him a “hero.” 

“His smile is just engraved in my brain. It’s all I can think about,” Winters said. “He told me he loved being a police officer and all he wanted to do was be a police officer.” 

Winters kept working on the mural on Sunday after some things didn’t go as planned. That evening, Winters learned that officer he spoke with was actually Shahnavaz.  

After Shahnavaz’s passing, Winters said the community helped come up with the idea to dedicate the new mural to the officer.  

“When you do a mural like this, usually it’s for a fallen officer or somebody who has already passed away, so this is one of the rare occasions where the person the mural is for actually saw the mural,” Winters said. “This is giving people hope, and I think Noah would be thrilled that he gave so many people hope.” 

RELATED: Elwood community remembers Ofc. Noah Shahnavaz

Every time somebody passes the mural, Winters hopes it reminds them of the sacrifices many first responders and veterans have made. He asks everyone to go out of their way to say “thank you” to those who continue to serve.  

“It means freedom and as we found out shortly after and as we all know, it doesn’t come cheap,” Joyner said.  

They are planning a formal dedication of the mural sometime later this month with a plaque with Shahnavaz’s name. There will also be a prayer vigil.  

You can contact Winters at theodorewintersmgmt@gmail.com or on his Instagram at @theodorewinters

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