In the fall of 2016, Nikki Salgot was an excited bride-to-be. She and her fiancé, Wayne State University Police Sergeant Collin Rose, had just less than one year to go before their Oct. 14, 2017 wedding date.
She never expected she would be alone in her wedding photos.
While on patrol on the night of Nov. 22, 2016, Sgt. Rose, 29, checked out with a suspicious man in an area where numerous thefts from vehicles had recently taken place. When he attempted to detain the suspect, the man shot Sgt. Rose in the head, killing him.
“It’s been almost a year, and it still feels like yesterday he walked out the door for work, and never came home,” Salgot, 29, posted on her Facebook page on Oct. 14 – the day that would have been her wedding day. “I loved a hero and paid the price. Given the chance, knowing the outcome, I’d do it all over again.
Despite her grief, Salgot looked for a way to honor her fiance and their pending nuptials. “I needed that day to not be ignored and forgotten,” she told Women’s Health.
She decided to ask her former classmate, wedding photographer Rachel Smaller, if she would photograph Salgot in her wedding dress, as a memorial shoot.
“I remember being in tears on the way there, thinking, ‘How am I going to do this? How am I going to find a way to take photos that will do this justice, not just for her but for him?'” Smaller, 28, told Today.
According to Women’s Health, Salgot bought a wedding dress while Sgt. Rose was still alive, but admitted to him that it wasn’t her first choice. She said the dress she truly loved was unlike anything anyone would expect her to wear, and that it was too expensive.
“He told me, ‘If it’s what you want and what will make you happy, go get it. We’ll figure it out,’’ Salgot recounted to Women’s Health. “So, I went back and I bought the dress after Collin died.”
Salgot wore that dress to Sgt. Rose’s memorial shoot.
“She was the picture of grief and resilience and strength and vulnerability and authenticity, all at once,” Smaller told Today. “She had an ease about her….She was very empowered.”
Despite their solemn purpose, the women also found themselves enjoying the day.
“There were moments when Nikki would shift her dress around, or step on it and start laughing. I wanted to capture those moments, too, to show that she can still laugh,” Smaller explained. “I needed to tell the story of this woman who’s lost the love of her life, but is still going to have closure, and still going to be his wife one way or another.”
Inside, however, the year’s struggles still weighed heavily for Salgot throughout the shoot. “I was angry that I was standing alone in a wedding dress and utterly lost in life,” she told Women’s Health. “I had lost my rock, my other half.”
When Smaller gave her the photos from the session, however, Salgot was faced with a new realization.
“She captured images that still vividly show the pain left behind; images that show I am still able to laugh, smile and be me; images that show this loss has not and will not destroy me; and my favorite, images that show I am still just as fierce as ever and refuse to let this define me,” she said in an Oct. 16 Facebook post.
“She managed to capture more than I could have ever hoped for; things I wasn’t entirely sure existed within me anymore,” Salgot wrote.
Salgot said Sgt. Rose continues to inspire her, and that she is still working on the education he encouraged her to obtain.
“I am learning to accept my new normal and everything that it brings to me, good and bad,” Salgot told Women’s Health.
Smaller has nothing but confidence in Salgot’s ability to persevere.
“This is a woman who is not broken. This did not break her,” Smaller told Today. “To me, she is an inspiration.”
Sgt. Rose was a five-and-one-half year veteran of the Wayne State University Police Department. He was also a K9 officer, and had previously served with the Richland Police Department. He was promoted to the rank of Sergeant after his death.
He was just one credit shy of a Master’s degree in Dispute Resolution when he was killed, WZZM reported. In December, 2016, Wayne State University conferred Sgt. Rose’s degree posthumously, and Salgot accepted the diploma on his behalf.
Raymond Durham, 61, has been charged with first-degree murder, murder of a peace officer, possession of a firearm by a felon, and two counts of possession of a firearm during the commission of a felony in relationship to Sgt. Rose’s murder.
After Officer Rose’s murder, two Detroit officers were shot by Durham before he was apprehended.