10/24/2007

Road sign to honor Md. police officer killed in highway stop

By Tyeesha Dixon
The Baltimore Sun
Officer Down: Officer Scott Wheeler

HOWARD COUNTY, Md. The Howard County Police Department unveiled yesterday a road sign dedicating a portion of Route 32 to Scott Wheeler, the officer who died last year after being struck by a car that he was trying to stop for speeding.

The sign will be placed in the median of Route 32, between U.S. 1 and Interstate 95, where Wheeler was hit. According to a State Highway Administration spokesman, it is should be up by the end of the week.

"I'm overwhelmed with emotion," said Wheeler's widow, Tracy, who unveiled the sign with Scott Wheeler's parents at police headquarters. "This sign is just such a great honor for Scott."

Cherry trees Tracy's favorite will be planted alongside the sign.

"He loved his job," she said. "I never thought that day that he wouldn't be coming home."

Larry Blickman, a Howard County resident who started the petition to create the road sign after learning about the circumstances of Wheeler's death, also attended the unveiling.

Wheeler, 31, of Millersville was hit on the afternoon of June 16 by the driver of a Nissan Sentra after stepping out into the road to flag down the speeding car traveling on eastbound Route 32. He was working as part of a three-person "stop team," in which officers go into traffic to direct speeders to the roadway's shoulder.

He died of head injuries two days after being struck.

Wheeler's family and police officials said they hope the sign will help slow down drivers on the busy road. Howard County Police Chief William J. McMahon said one goal of the sign is to help drivers "recognize what Scott was trying to do out there."

"Scott was out there trying to make Route 32 safer," McMahon said.

Wheeler's mother, Janet, said the dedication shows how the Police Department and community have supported her family "every step of the way."

"I just hope people realize what a sacrifice he made," said Charles "Fred" Wheeler, Scott Wheeler's father.

Wheeler was the first Howard County police officer to die in the line of duty since 1961. The car's driver has not been charged, and the investigation is continuing, a police spokeswoman said.

Copyright 2007 Baltimore Sun

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