MERRILLVILLE | On a gloomy Monday, hundreds of law enforcement officials, family members and friends gathered in Merrillville and Lowell to pay respects for slain Merrillville Patrolman Nickolaus Schultz.

At the Radisson Hotel at Star Plaza, mourners were greeted with family photos that exemplified how short Schultz's life was cut.

A teenage Schultz was shown in photos playing sports. A picture of him as a toddler showed him with a baseball and baseball glove. Another photo dated from 2009 showed him in a black graduation gown from Lowell High School.

Schultz, 24, was the first Merrillville officer to be killed in the line of duty. The Lowell native was removed from life support Sept. 7.

Schultz's family, traveling in Merrillville police squad cars and escorted by police motorcycles, arrived at the theater just after 10:30 a.m.

They were greeted with a Merrillville Police Department honor guard salute as they exited the vehicles and with hugs from Joe Hamer, chairman of the Indiana Fraternal Order of Police's Critical Incident and Memorial Team.

Mourners passed by Schultz's American flag-draped casket, which was guarded by two uniformed officers, as they proceeded to seats just before the service was scheduled to begin. Flower arrangements lined the stage including one in the shape of a football. 

The service started nearly an hour late to accommodate the crowds. The Rev. Peter Muha, of Our Lady of Consolation Church in Merrillville, presided.

Throughout the day, many remembered Schultz for his leadership on the football field and in his community.

The religious service included readings from the Bible by Schultz family members and the Merrillville Police Department chaplain.

Schultz's older sister, Heather, tearfully read a scripture from the Bible about death. Her mother, Coleen, stood by her side during the reading. 

Muha said he saw Schultz grow up while serving as the priest at St. Edwards Church in Lowell. Muha joked about Schultz's singing, and said Schultz's shined as a football player.

Schultz was voted the football team's captain during his senior year at Franklin College. Muha said the football coach described Schultz as having all the qualities required to be a lineman including being unselfish and unconcerned about receiving credit.

Later Monday, his college football teammates John Werbe and Brooks Bemis said Schultz was a dependable team member who mentored the younger players.

"He didn't mind doing hard work for little recognition," Bemis said. 

Schultz studied sociology and criminal justice at Franklin College. In July 2013, he was sworn in as a Merrillville officer. He graduated from the police academy Nov. 15. 

Muha said Schultz's mother was concerned about his career as an officer, but she was happy if the career made him happy. 

Merrillville Police Chief Joseph Petruch said during the ceremony that police chiefs dream of recruits like Schultz. He described him as having teddy bear eyes but a tough resolve. 

Petruch paused and fought back tears as he told the crowd about Schultz's last day Sept. 5. He said after the department roll call, Schultz asked him for a new baseball cap because he liked wearing hats. 

The two walked to the chief's office and Petruch handed him a new hat. 

"I said, 'Be careful out there, Nick,'" Petruch said.

Schultz's mother, Coleen, stood up and hugged Petruch as he walked off stage.

Sen. Joe Donnelly, D-Ind, who also spoke at the funeral of Gary Patrolman Jeffrey Westerfield, said people across the state were heartbroken by Schultz's death.

Donnelly said Schultz accomplished a lot at a young age, from leading his college football team to serving the community.

"It is a stunning legacy in such a short time," Donnelly said.

He described Schultz as a warrior for good and right.

"He's your son," he said. "He's our hero."

Gov. Mike Pence called Monday a time for the entire state to grieve. He offered condolences to the Schultz family who were seated by the casket. 

"He showed courage and dedication," Pence said. "Acting without regard for his personal safety to protect a community and to protect his colleagues and comrades. He acted that night. He saved lives at the cost of his own."

Pence told the crowd to lean on their faith during their time of mourning.

Muha said no one was surprised by Schultz's last actions Sept. 5 because it was the same type of leadership he was known for. 

"It was no surprise that Nick was the first officer to ... the door that night," Muha said. 

Schultz was shot in the head Sept. 5 while responding to a call about an evicted resident at the Tempe Lake Condominiums who had broken into the condo unit.

The evicted resident, Michael Hrnciar, 33, of Merrillville, died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound, according to the Lake County coroner's office.

Muha said Schultz's generosity will continue postmortem. 

"From this precious seed that fell to the ground," Muha said, "Six lives have been saved."

Outside of the Star Plaza Theatre, crowds began lining the streets in Merrillville, Lowell and Crown Point as early as 1 p.m. Some held American flags while others made signs honoring Schultz.

About 100 people gathered under umbrellas in the rain outside of the Merrillville Municipal Complex just before 2 p.m. waiting for Schultz to pass by the Police Department for a final ending tour of duty call.

A portrait of Schultz stood next to his flower-covered squad car in front of the complex.

Brian Dempsey, who attended a radio and television class with Schultz, was among those waiting outside of the complex.

"He was nice guy," Dempsey said. "The whole town is coming together. It's really nice to see. Not just the town, but the whole region (is) coming together for this."

The Merrillville Police Department did the final 10-42 "ending tour of duty" call for Schultz as the hearse carrying his casket passed by the Merrillville Town Complex at 2:45 p.m. Monday.

"Officer Schultz has gone home for the final time," the dispatcher said.

Monday's funeral services mirrored those conducted about two months ago for slain Gary Patrolman Jeffrey Westerfield.

Lake County Sheriff John Buncich said prior to Monday's funeral it was tragic day for law enforcement especially because it's the second officer funeral in two months.

"A young officer at the prime of his life is gone," Buncich said.

Westerfield was shot to death July 6 in his police car while searching for suspect in the 2600 block of Van Buren Place in Gary, police said.

Carl L. Blount, of Gary, is facing a murder charge in Westerfield's death. The case is pending in Lake County Criminal Court.

At the burial site Monday afternoon, community members stood near a fence outside of the cemetery. A large crowd from the community gathered along with the hundreds of law enforcement officials to watch the burial service. 

The hearse arrived at the Lowell Memorial Cemetery about 4:30 p.m. as drum and pipes members played. As rain poured down on the crowd, Schultz's friends and uncles carried the casket to the burial site.

Muha led the crowd in religious prayers before blessing the casket with holy water. 

Petruch presented the Schultz's family with the American flag that was draped over the casket throughout much of the day. He knelt in front of Coleen Schultz, held her hand and spoke privately to the family. 

Coleen Schultz held onto the flag as the hundreds of officers placed white carnations with a red dot on top of her son's casket. The family stared at the casket as the rain continued to pour down on the crowd. 

Times photographer John Luke and Times staff writer Lauri Harvey Keagle contributed to this report. 

Reporting like this is brought to you by a staff of experienced local journalists committed to telling the stories of your community. Support from subscribers is vital to continue our mission.

Times photographer John Luke and Times staff writer Lauri Harvey Keagle contributed to this report. 

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An unnatural-born runner, a pretty regular yoga doer and a lover of cookies and other sweet treats, Times digital producer Laura Lane writes about her fitness journey. Questions, training tips or race suggestions? Throw her a line on email or Twitter.