‘We lost our brother’

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Chief Dean and Winum
Stanley Police Chief Ryan Dean presents Officer Nick Winum with an award during his five years with Stanley PD.

By Randy Arrington

STANLEY, March 2 — The front desk at the Stanley Police Department now sits empty, and the hearts of its handful of officers are heavy.

“We lost our brother.”

Chief Ryan Dean fought back emotion at times to find the words to describe his fallen officer, his friend, Dominic “Nick” Winum.

“If you saw that smile, your day got better,” Chief Dean said.

“It was that smile…that smile,” Officer Aaron Cubbage added.

Members of the Stanley Police Department gathered together Tuesday morning with media to share their thoughts about “Nick.”

“I’m a better person and police officer by knowing Nick and having him in my life,” Capt. B.C. Brown said.

Winum was shot Friday afternoon about 3:15 p.m. by a suspect he had pulled over during a traffic stop on Judy Lane in Stanley. The suspect exited his vehicle and shot the 15-year veteran of law enforcement as he sat in his cruiser.

The assailant fled the scene and was later shot by a deputy with the Page County Sheriff’s Office along Marksville Road less than an hour later.

By Friday afternoon, a few bouquets of flowers were placed outside the Stanley Police Department on the sidewalk along Main Street. Within hours, the number of arrangements grew, along with flags, banners, and personal messages.

As Chief Dean and his officers brought back Officer Winum’s body from the state medical examiner’s officer in Manassas on Saturday, they were met by a seemingly endless show of support during every mile of the route back to Page County.

“I don’t think there was a road, turnoff, overpass or bridge that there wasn’t somebody there showing their support,” Chief Dean said. “I’ve never seen anything like it.”

A line of law enforcement vehicles “four to five miles long” greeted the group as they left Manassas. It continued all the way down I-66, through Front Royal and along Route 340, with flags, banners, signs, waves and salutes from strangers who wanted to show their support for a fallen member of the law enforcement community.

“I’m sure they didn’t know him,” Chief Dean said, “but everyone wants to help. The support we have received has been overwhelming.”

A lady in California wants to donate shawls with Winum’s badge number — 202 — sewn on it. A group in Georgia wants to make masks with the same emblem. The department has received condolences from numerous public officials, including Tweets from Virginia Senator Mark Obenshain, Delegate Todd Gilbert and U.S. Rep. Ben Cline. Donations are pouring in, local eateries have offered food, local and regional law enforcement, as well as fire and rescue agencies, have offered “whatever you need.”

His fellow officers, as well as his peers across the county and across the region, knew Winum prior to his arrival in Stanley because of his 10 years of service in the area with Virginia State Police. Current trooper Brandon Tester received his training from Winum.

“He was a really great guy and a great officer,” Tester told the Daily News-Record. “He will be greatly missed.”

Not only will the five-person police department in Stanley be one man down, but the community at large will be missing a hero.

“Everybody in the community will be missing out,” Chief Dean said. “He went into this subdivision one day just to look around and check in with folks, and he ended up working on this kid’s scooter while he was on duty…he did it just because he wanted to. He would go and just check on people. That’s the kind of person he was.”

At least 10 or more people that Winum had previously arrested have already donated to the GoFundme site set up to help his family. As of mid-afternoon on Tuesday, the fund had received more than $60,000.

“We’ve had texts and emails from offenders who wanted to pay their respects,” Officer Cubbage said. “One person said, ‘he wrote me a ticket, but I liked him.’ I think that speaks a lot to who he was.”

“That’s who he was… that’s the kind of guy he was…his whole family is like that…always nice to people,” Chief Dean added. “Anyone he ran into he had a good relationship with.”

Winum was born in Walden, New York, and even spent some time as a tomato farmer along Virginia’s Eastern Shore before joining the Virginia State Police’s 112th Basic Session in August 2006. He patrolled Division II Area 14 (including Page County) for a decade before joining the Stanley department in 2016. The small department makes it clear that they lost more than a co-worker. They truly lost a brother — and it has been difficult.

“We’ll be off a substantial amount of time. All of us were involved in some way,” Chief Dean said, noting they needed time to cope with the loss and the trauma that follows such horrific events. “We’re spending as much time as we can with our families.”

Law enforcement coverage in the coming weeks in the Town of Stanley will be provided by local agencies such as the Page County Sheriff’s Office and others, including some help from outside the county.

“The Town of Stanley won’t be unattended,” Chief Dean said.

While others in law enforcement in the county have been shot and a few have died in the line of duty in accidents, Officer Winum is believed to be the first law enforcement officer ever shot and killed in the line of duty in Page County.

The Chief remembers the first time he met Winum. They were working a wreck together outside of the town limits. He was surprised when the state trooper approached him about working in a small police force.

“I thought he was joking coming from state police, but when he sat down and talked to me, I realized why,” Chief Dean said. “He wanted that personal touch and to be in a community where he could make some real differences in people’s lives — and he did.”

As support continues to role in from all across the country and Canada, local plans are being made as well:

  • Tuesday, March 2 — Memorial vigil, 7 p.m., Luray VFW along Route 211 just east of Luray;
  • Wednesday, March 3 — Visitation, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., Bethlehem Independent Christian Church, Kite Hollow Road, Stanley;
  • Thursday, March 4 — Funeral service, 2 p.m., Bulldog Field, Route 340 North, Luray.

Burial will take place in Wallkill Valley Cemetery in Walden, N.Y.

Chief Dean says he has never received a single complaint about Officer Winum during his five years of service in Stanley, and that doesn’t surprise him. His fellow officers equate that to his smile.

“The first thing I remember about him was that smile,” the Chief said. 

Winum leaves behind a wife, four children and a granddaughter.

“His family has that same smile,” Officer Cubbage said. “It was that smile…that smile.”

“That told you a lot about who he was,” Chief Dean continued. “This is a big loss for us, but an even bigger loss for the community and the impact he had on it.

“Rest easy my brother.”

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