The memory of a late Evansville Police detective lives on through the music he loved. Earlier this month, a concert was held in honor of Nathan Schroer just weeks after he passed away from leukemia. Schroer was a detective, an associate pastor and, as it turns out, a hip hop mogul.
Eyewitness News' Jordan Vandenberge and Photojournalist Brian Cissell have the story.
Cascaded in blue lights, he took a few steps forward. He cautiously grabbed the mic. The crowd of hundreds began to quiet to a dull roar. Being up on stage can be the loneliest place on Earth except if you're Detective Brian Turpin.
"Raise your hand if you're here to honor Nathan and God at the same time," Det. Turpin said as the crowd erupted in cheers.
Life is all about the platform. Sometimes it's a stage. Sometimes it's a corner office at Holly's House.
"I'm a sex crimes detective with the Evansville Police Department," Turpin said. "We take a case from start to finish."
Det. Turpin deals with what many people consider unthinkable; the neglect and sexual abuse of children and adults. The crimes are personal. Solving them, Turpin says, can take him to the deepest and darkest places.
"I wouldn't still be in this job if I didn't have Christ," Turpin said. "Whether it's the people that I'm serving that are the victims of these crimes, whether it's the people that are committing these crimes or the detectives working on these crimes, we're all broken."
Much like a song, some cases can stay with you and some cases can change you. It doesn't take long for Turpin to recall one of those cases.
"the job was really killing me. There was this kid that nobody wants that is going to fall by the wayside," Turpin said. "I know what the system looks like and it's not pretty. I actually gave God an ultimatum. If by Monday morning I don't hear something, I'm turning in my papers and I'm transferring out of this unit."
He didn't have to wait long for an answer. It was a phone call from another Evansville Police officer. His name was Nathan Schroer and they had never met.
"We met through him adopting Elion," Turpin said. "That was my case and when we got to know each other through that. Shortly after adopting Elion, he wound up coming to this unit."
What Det. Benson was to Det. Stabler, Det. Schroer was to Det. Turpin. But that's not to say they didn't have their differences.
"He hated country music," Turpin said as he laughed. "Absolutely hated country music. His son Elion loves country music and that kills him."
They had a bond that only those in union blue could understand. They would spend an hour each morning before working a their shifts at the Special Victims Unit. The Holly's House kitchen is where they would always meet to talk about faith, family and the future. They quickly became friends, best friends.
“It went so far beyond that,” Turpin said. “It went into ministry. It went into the record label."
Nkosi Records, a Christian hip hop record label, was born. The label provided a platform for Schroer and Turpin to use. It was a ministry that used a familiar sound to reach those unfamiliar with it’s message.
“We signed our first artist this year up at the hospital when Nathan was sick because I wanted him to be a part of it," Turpin said. “Its been more than a testament to Nathan. It should be a testament to our wives for them letting us do this. It is incredible.”
“Christian rappers, I know it's already a stereotype but [Nathan] always believed that we should have just as much skill, if not more skill than anybody else," said Eric Tillaman, better known as E2. Tillman was the first artist to sign with Nkosi Records, which now has a few more artists.
Being on the same level as secular hip hop artists is a lofty goal especially in today’s culture which often ranks status over substance. But Tillman has a rhyme and a reason to do it differently.
“We may listen to rappers and they are talking about something that we can't even live,” Tillman said. “But listening to Christian rap music, we talk about real life stuff."
In Tillman’s debut album on Nkosi, he has thirteen tracks ranging from topics like sin, struggle and salvation. While the album was in post-production, the leukemia that Schroer beat nine years ago had returned. He passed away peacefully in late November.
“Detective Nathan Schroer answered his final call,” said a dispatcher over police radios on the day of Schroer’s funeral. “He fought the good fight and has been called home to guard our heavenly streets. Well done our good and faithful servant. Well done."
Hundreds came to the celebration of his life which featured performances from the artists that now call Nkosi Records home. Much like the music he loved, Schroer had an influence on those around him whether it was his best friend or his grieving widow, Lindsay.
“I miss him a lot, a lot," said Lindsay Schroer has she fought back tears. “He was my best friend. Sometimes I wait for him to come through the door. Some things are just so surreal still. I miss him holding me. I felt so safe when he was holding me. I just miss his Godly advice and I miss his wisdom and I miss his pure joy for all things. I miss him. I miss him a lot."
“Every day I get the ‘I need to text him about this, I need to call him about that,’” Turpin said. “That's going to take some time."
Lindsay knew Nathan was special. While 13 years isn’t nearly enough, three smiling children reminder that their marriage was special too.
“[Our children] always see the pictures of Daddy,” Lindsay said. “Our two year old goes, 'There's Daddy. I miss Daddy.’ And I'll say I miss Daddy too. I never thought this would be my life but I wouldn't want it any other way."
On the job, in the hospital, from the pulpit, it didn't matter. Nathan Schroer used all of life's platforms.
He even used the platform that came through his death.
I'm going to do what glorifies and honors God and I know that will glorify Nathan,” Tillman said. “We got closer and we had meetings and we talked about the future and what we expected from each other. Those things, I’ll never get to see.”
“[Nathan] asked that the record label would continue as long as God continued to open doors, we'd continue walking through them," Turpin said.
Those doors are still open.
They checked tickets at the door. They filed down the aisle. And they took their seats. It’s the concert that Nathan was planning but never got to see.
But when E2 took the stage that night, Nathan wasn't far behind.