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'He loved Fairdale' | Jefferson County deputy killed in the line of duty honored with tribute mile

Running for Heroes organized the walk around the track to honor Brandon Shirley, who was shot and killed on Aug. 5.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — The Fairdale community honored fallen Jefferson County Sheriff's deputy Brandon Shirley with a tribute mile alongside Running 4 Heroes on Monday evening at Fairdale High School.

Step by step, day by day. This community is mourning one of its own.

Shirley was shot and killed in an early morning shooting on Aug. 5 in what police called an ambush shooting. A $50,000 reward is now being offered for any information leading to the arrest and conviction of the individual(s) responsible for his death.

Dozens came to pay tribute Monday by walking or running four laps around the track -- first responders, Jefferson County Sheriff's deputies, Louisville Metro police officers, former teachers, coaches. 

All in remembrance of a man who touched each of their lives in different ways as his family looked on.

Credit: Alyssa Newton - WHAS
Running 4 Heroes director Chonda Lowder leads the tribute mile walk/run at the Fairdale High School track in honor of Deputy Brandon Shirley.

'They will always have support' 

Chonda Lowder, director for Running 4 Heroes helped organize the run and paid her tribute by running with a blue-line American flag.

"For me, it doesn't feel like giving back, it feels like something I should do," Lowder said. "Just to show the family that the community supports them. It's nice to see the turnout, it's more about the people who show up more than anything else."

Usually, 12-year-old Zachariah Cartledge, who started the non-profit, would travel to run the mile himself, but with school starting on Tuesday he ran three miles in the last three nights in Florida. Monday night he posted a video of him running the mile as dozens of others in Kentucky did to pay tribute.

Lowder said Zachariah is less than 25 miles from 1,000 miles of tributes to fallen and injured law enforcement officers. She usually runs in honor of the military members but was happy to hoist the blue-line flag for the tribute mile before folding and presenting the flag to the Jefferson County Sheriff's Department.

"There's always going to be people that back them," Lowder said of Shirley's family and blood and badge. "They will always have support and we saw that tonight."

Credit: Alyssa Newton - WHAS11
Running 4 Heroes director Chonda Lowder and Jefferson County Sheriff’s deputies fold the blue-line flag Lowder ran for Shirley’s the tribute mile before presenting it to the department.

'It breaks our hearts'

Multiple first responders with Metro Louisville EMS came to pay tribute to "Squirrely Shirley," a loving nickname the 26-year-old was given ever since high school.

"He was goofy. He was funny. He was very eager to help anybody he thought needed help," Alex Shearer said. "Even if he didn’t need help he tried to help them. That’s just how it was. He was Squirrely, and that’s how he got his nickname Squirrely Shirley."

Shearer knew Shirley from the many nights he'd talk to him while Shirley worked off-duty security at Norton's Hospital while he worked EMS. Although he moved in the last few years, he made sure to come pay tribute. He said the heartbreak was clear from even miles away.

"You can tell the entire community is hurting -- especially the first responders."

One of those first responders was Metro Louisville EMS's Carmen Tomazin, who worked with Shirley for years.

"He gave his all, he was always there," Tomazin said. "That’s what I can remember most. Always there whether it be police runs, fire runs, EMS runs - any outside activity, community event he was there and happy to be there."

She said that he never met a stranger, which is why he had so many friends -- apparent by the many events and tributes to him.

Tomazin stopped for a moment, holding back tears as she remembered him. "It breaks our hearts," she said.

"He did not deserve what happened to him at all, nobody does. But especially Brandon," Shearer said. "He'd never speak ill of anybody. I don’t think he ever did. He was just trying to do what we all do, work a little overtime. Make ends meet. He didn’t deserve this."

'He loved Fairdale' 

Shirley was a graduate of Fairdale High School and was loved by teachers, peers and coaches alike.

Former Bulldogs baseball coach Brandon Hicks coached Shirley for all four years he was part of the baseball team. He said Shirley's attitude was contagious on and off of the field.

"He wanted to be his best and make everyone around him better," Hicks said. "If you came into contact with Brandon Shirley you were better because of it."

While Shirley was in school, Hicks said it didn't matter what task he was given -- he'd give it his all.

"It didn’t matter what role he was asked to fill. Whether it was keeping a chart or going out on the mound and pitching that day he was going to be the best version of himself and fill that role to the best of his ability."

Credit: Alyssa Newton - WHAS11
A Fairdale hat and the 2013 team photo for the Fairdale Bulldog baseball team sits among a memorial to fallen Jefferson County deputy Brandon Shirley at the Fairdale roundabout.

Hicks said that carried on past high school and into his job as an EMS and eventually a Jefferson County Sheriff's deputy.

"He was a full of life young man who enjoyed serving. That’s all he wanted to do was serve and make it a better place."

And he said he did make Fairdale a better place, with many who were touched in some way in the short 26-year-old's life showing up to support his family at a candlelight vigil on Friday to walking a mile on the track at his alma mater.

Hicks said the community was more of a family, one that comes together when it's needed the most.

"We know what this place is about and we see it on a daily basis," Hicks said. "But when there is something like this, something senseless that happens or a tragedy... you see in a short amount of time everyone comes together."

Hicks hopes that Shirley's servant's heart and love for people are things that will be remembered and honored through his legacy.

"If you come into contact with Brandon, you could tell how genuine he was and how much he cared for people," Hicks said. "I think especially in today’s world we could all take a lesson from that moving forward and help carry on his legacy. Just be genuine and care about people."

Funeral and visitation arrangements 

The visitation is scheduled for Aug. 10 at 11 a.m. through 7 p.m. at Owen Funeral Home on Dixie Highway. A private visitation for law enforcement only will also be held that day.

The funeral takes place the following day at Southeast Christian Church on Blankenbaker Parkway at noon. A procession starting at Southeast Christian Church will bring Shirley to a cemetery on Baxter Avenue.

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