Spencer Wiersberg saluted as a hometown hero

The Wiersberg Family: Rich, Spencer, Samantha and Gerrie.

Spencer Wiersberg, a Fruitland police officer who died Sunday after a nearly year-long battle with an aggressive form of bone cancer, is being remembered as a hometown hero who won awards in his brief career and touched the hearts of family, friends and strangers.

“He was just an amazing kid,” said Fruitland Police Chief Brian Swafford who hired Wiersberg in December 2017 when he was 21.

After graduating from the Criminal Justice Academy, Wiersberg went to work in the summer of 2018, and soon he received awards from MADD and was named the department’s Officer of the Year.

“He was the most mature 21-year-old I ever met,” Swafford said. “He was born to do this.”

Wicomico County Sheriff Mike Lewis, who had known Wiersberg since he was 10 years old, said the young officer made 25 DWI arrests, 54 criminal arrests, made 754 traffic stops and issued 38 civil citations in his short time with the department.

“To be honest, that is more than some police officers do in their entire career,” he said.

But after only 10 months on the job, Wiersberg was diagnosed with Ewing sarcoma, a rare type of cancer that occurs in bones or in the soft tissue around the bones, according to the Mayo Clinic website. It is more common in teenagers and young adults.

He was sent to the Johns Hopkins Pediatric Oncology Unit last February after having pain, trouble breathing and weight loss.

The police department helped out by selling Wiersberg Warriors T-shirts to help cover costs not covered by insurance, and eventually raised more than $50,000. Swafford said donations have come in from as far away as Australia.

“These shirts have gone everywhere,” he said.

Officers also donated their sick days.

“We didn’t want him to go without a paycheck,” Swafford said. “We felt that was our responsibility.” 

A few months ago, Wiersberg seemed to be getting better, but then he took a turn for the worse, Swafford said.

“For whatever reason, it came back with a vengeance,” he said.

Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan, above right, paid a hospital visit last week to Spencer Wiersberg, a Fruitland Police Officer.

Photos of Wiersberg posted on the Wiersberg Warriors Facebook page show him with his family over the Christmas and New Year’s holidays, but he was readmitted to the hospital on Jan. 5 with severe hip and shoulder pain.

The Facebook group also posted a photo of Gov. Larry Hogan, himself a cancer survivor, visiting Wiersberg at Johns Hopkins on Jan. 9 for Law Enforcement Appreciation Day.

But soon after arriving at Hopkins, doctors informed the family that the cancer had spread and they were terminating further treatment, Lewis said. Wiersberg then asked to go home.

Swafford sent a group text to all Fruitland officers asking them to meet up with the family in Easton and provide Wiersberg with an escort home Friday night.

“We need to go get our boy,” Swafford told officers. All of them showed up.

With lights flashing, the patrol cars made their way down Route 50 from Easton to Wiersberg’s family home. He died less than two days later.

Wiersberg graduated from James M. Bennett High School, where he played soccer, and was an all-star football place-kicker at McDaniel College in Westminster, Md.

His father, Rich Wiersberg, is a Lieutenant at the Wicomico County Sheriff’s Office. His mother, Gerrie Wiersberg, is a teacher’s supervisor for the Wicomico County Board of Education.

Lewis said he is close friends with the Wiersberg family, attending Ravens games and family events together over the years.

“He was a precious kid,” Lewis said. “I loved that boy. I absolutely loved him.”

Wiersberg’s death has prompted an outpouring of condolences on Facebook.

“Our thoughts and prayers are with Spencer’s family. Heartbreaking,” the Wicomico County Sheriff’s Office posted on Sunday.

“It is with deep sadness that we express our heartfelt sympathy to the Wiersberg Family with the loss of their son, Spencer Wiersberg. Spencer won the hearts of the community. He was a great son, brother, police officer and friend to all. He will be greatly missed. RIP Spencer,” County Executive Bob Culver said in a post.

The Somerset County Sheriff’s Office also paid tribute: “Officer Wiersberg has been fighting through cancer like a warrior but unfortunately, that battle has come to an end. Rest easy warrior, we have the watch from here brother.”

A funeral service is scheduled for noon on Saturday at Emmanuel Wesleyan Church in Salisbury, with visitation prior to the service from 10 a.m. to noon. Interment will be in Siloam United Methodist Church Cemetery. A reception will be held at 3 p.m. at Black Diamond Lodge in Fruitland.

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