While the community still mourns the loss of Nick Polizzotto, there is another policeman for whom this anniversary has great significance.
Patrolman Michael Norby was also shot that day, and ended up killing the man who shot both him and his partner.
For the last year he has stayed out of the spotlight, refusing all requests for interviews—until now.
He agreed to sit down with Newscenter 16’s Maureen McFadden for an exclusive interview, recalling the day he lost his partner and friend.
Michael Norby came back to work two months after the shooting, and Wednesday night was a night just like any other for patrolman Mike Norby. He took Newscenter 16 along as he patrolled his beat, the northwest side of South Bend.
It was one year to the night that he and his partner Nick Polizzotto would make their last call together.
“There's a little apprehension,” Norby said, concerning the anniversary of the shooting. “But like I said, you've got a job to do.”
It is just one part of a job that can put a police officer in danger every time they respond to a call.
That night we came upon a house with a side door open. Just like last year, Norby and his fellow cops went in with guns drawn. Fortunately there was no one inside the home, unlike the call he responded to one year ago.
“I was the first one on scene and they had given a brief description over the radio. The problem with these kinds of calls is that once you've been on them a while they become very routine,” Norby said.
Only that fateful call was anything but routine. Norby told us how he and Polizzotto approached the shooter, Scott Barnaby, on the second floor of the Wooden Indian motel.
“I could see a crack of light splinter out onto the catwalk and I could see a head peak out and he went back into the room. So I looked back at Nick and said, ‘this might be something.’
“We kind of cautiously walked up to the room and the guy came and kind of stood in the doorway and put one hand on the doorknob. One hand was down on his side so I could see both his hands.”
And then, in a matter of seconds, everything changed.
“After several times of asking him if we could just come in and take a look around he went to shut the door. That's when Nick stuck his foot in the door to stop it. I already had a set of cuffs on him and I felt him tense up on me.”
Norby said that's when Barnaby reached inside his pocket for his gun. When he looked up, the gun was at his shoulder.
“As soon as I looked up the gun went off. It hit me in the collar bone which pushed me back and spun me around.”
Then Norby saw his partner get hit.
“I saw Nick buckle and my instant thought was he'd been hit. I tried to get my hand to my gun but with the collarbone broken on my gunhand side I had almost no mobility to my arm.
“I don't know if it was adrenalin or just the hand of God, but I was able to get my gun out. I can actually remember watching some of my rounds leave my handgun and travel down. I remember seeing the vapor trail.”
In seconds, this Iraqi war veteran knew his partner was dead.
“Nick died there with me. I held his head when he took his last breath.”
Norby says not a day goes by that he doesn’t think about this, but he says life must go on. He says all cops know the risk.
“To go in the line of duty is a very honorable thing. It's a very brave thing; it's very selfless, very courageous. He (Nick) died a hero. But that doesn't really do a lot for his family. It doesn't replace their loss. If I could fill that void for him I would do it in a heartbeat.”
And yes, Norby says, he often wonders—why Nick and not him? “I ask myself that everyday,” Norby said.
And when asked if he believes in fate, Patrolman Norby replied, “No. I believe in God.”
Mike Norby says Nick was a good and decent man who loved talking about his son, Joe, and he loved being a cop.
He says he and the rest of South Bend's 260 strong force miss Nick everyday.
We'll have the entire interview with Mike Norby accessible via video links at the top of this article.
And we'll also have coverage of SBPD's candlelight vigil for Polizzotto tonight on Newscenter 16 at 11.