Nick Armstrong was "conscientious," "fun," a loyal friend with an infectious personality and an all-around "good guy," friends and colleagues of the slain Rapid City police officer said Wednesday.
Armstrong, who died Saturday from wounds suffered in an Aug. 2 shootout, will be buried today after a public visitation and funeral in Rushmore Plaza Civic Center. Officer J. Ryan McCandless also was killed in the shootout. Officer Tim Doyle was wounded and was released from the hospital Tuesday.
Gov. Dennis Daugaard, representatives from the state's Congressional delegation and law enforcement officers from throughout the state will be among the dignitaries at the funeral.
Armstrong leaves memories from his life both in and out of uniform.
"He was just a good, solid officer," said Lt. Curt Jacobs of the Spearfish Police Department, where the 27-year-old Armstrong worked for two years before joining the Rapid City Police Department in 2009. "Nick was the kind of officer who, whether he was arresting somebody or whatever he was doing, he handled himself in a way that didn't anger people, even if they were being arrested. He treated everyone fairly."
Armstrong's fellow RCPD officers described him as "energetic" and "generous," intent on both helping and entertaining others.
"Nick Armstrong was well known by fellow officers as one of the nicest people they knew. He was a genuinely kind person - the kind of person a police chief loves to hire. His potential was virtually unlimited. He had all the ingredients of a fine police officer including a passion for serving others. His support system of family and friends is simply incredible," said Rapid City Police Chief Steve Allender.
His friends say those traits went far deeper than his badge.
"It's not being a police officer that made him who he is," said Jamie Appleman, a college friend of Armstrong who lives in Scottsbluff, Neb. "He was a friend, a brother, a son and a grandson before he was ever a police officer."
Armstrong loved road trips, photography and bands like State Radio and Dispatch.
"If you've ever met Nick, he loved road trips and loved to have fun," said Sara Hornick, another college friend.
In uniform, Armstrong enjoyed working on the bicycle-based Street Crimes Unit. When not on duty, Armstrong liked to ride his mountain bike on Black Hills trails.
The son of longtime Pennington County Sheriff's Deputy Bill Armstrong, the young man seemed focused from an early age on public service.
"Nick was always a perfect example of a model student," said Sandi McLain, Armstrong's high school counselor. "He was very much interested in going into law enforcement from the very beginning."
McLain was assigned to students in the top half of the alphabet and said that like all counselors, she spent a lot of her time dealing with troublemakers.
That label never fit Armstrong.
"He never was in trouble," she said. "He never wanted to instigate anything. He was always there to try to help other people and bring a resolution to anything that may have happened."
While attending Rapid City Stevens High School, Armstrong was involved in the Civil Air Patrol and the Rapid City police cadets program.
At Black Hills State University, he was intent on becoming a police officer, Hornick said.
He got his wish with the Spearfish Police Department, where he was a patrol officer.
His colleagues in Spearfish knew him for his humor and his civic spirit.
"The officers all loved working with him," Jacobs said. "He could find humor in some of the stuff that wasn't always easy to find humor in. Law enforcement is a tough business that can really wear down on your emotions, and he was able to keep things in perspective."
But after two years in Spearfish, his colleagues weren't surprised to see Armstrong return home to Rapid City.
"He just wanted his community to be a nice place for everyone to live," Jacobs said.
Friends and colleagues also noted that generous spirit.
Armstrong was "one of the most stand-up guys I've ever met in my life," Hornick said.
He was known to serve meals at the Cornerstone Rescue Mission and volunteered for work on the Street Crimes Unit targeting small offenses.
His friends said it was the little things Armstrong did for others that stood out.
On a road trip to Denver, Hornick said, Armstrong agreed to ride a roller coaster with her despite disliking it. Appleman was struck by her visit to Rapid City in June, when Armstrong made time to see her even though he was on the verge of leaving for Pierre to help the flood-stricken town.
After Appleman accidentally dropped a sock in the river on a hike, Armstrong wordlessly "just picked up one of his socks and tossed it in after mine," she said.
Bob Grandpre, the Pierre police chief, said Armstrong made a big impression on his trip to Pierre. With that town's police force overwhelmed during the flooding crisis, Armstrong was among the law enforcement officers from throughout the state who traveled to the capital to help keep order.
"He was with the first crew who came in, which just speaks about his character that he was willing to work for whatever community he was in," Grandpre said. "We're thankful that Rapid was willing to lend him to us during this crisis."
Jacobs says the praise for Armstrong isn't just flattery.
"Nick was just a very good guy," he said. "People will say that when tragedy happens to someone, but Nick really was a good guy. He was an officer who truly cared about his community."
Contact David Montgomery at 394-8329 or email@example.com