Family mourns Niles native killed following traffic stop in New Mexico

Published 1:18 pm Thursday, December 3, 2020

NILES — Baysia Cox, 29, remembers her brother, Rodney Applewhite, happy.

She described her brother’s smile as one that never left his face, lighting up rooms wherever he went. It is a smile she will never see again.

“Rodney was my only sibling,” Cox said. “I loved him with everything. We had a really close bond. I’m thankful for the 25 years I got with him. He loved his family, and he loved his friends. He did not hesitate to tell me he loved me every day. Those are memories that I will always cherish.”

Applewhite, a 25-year-old Niles native, was killed in Los Lunas, New Mexico Nov. 19 following an altercation with New Mexico police.

A press release issued by the New Mexico Department of Public Safety states that police initiated a traffic stop with a grey Chrysler 200 at 8:32 a.m. Nov. 19 on a highway in Los Lunas, which is south of Albuquerque. While police did not identify the vehicle’s driver, the family has confirmed it to be Applewhite.

Following a pursuit, dispatchers were notified of a man standing in the middle of the expressway attempting to stop traffic, according to the press release. The man, identified again by family as Applewhite, then resisted arrest, and an altercation took place.

“During the altercation, the male suspect grabbed one of the officer’s firearm,” according to New Mexico State Police. “At that point, the other State Police officer fired at least one round from his department-issued sidearm, striking the male suspect.”

Following the altercation, Applewhite was transported to Albuquerque, New Mexico, where he succumbed to his injuries.

At the time of his death, Applewhite was traveling from Indiana to Arizona to visit Cox and other members of his family for Thanksgiving.

“He was killed just six hours away from us. He was so close but didn’t make it,” Cox said. “Thanksgiving was sour. It didn’t feel right because he wasn’t here with us. Every Thanksgiving from here on out just won’t be right.”

Cox said she and her family learned of Applewhite’s death from news reports, hours after he had succumbed to his wound. Since then, she said family members had received limited contact from police officers. Now, the family wants answers.

“Something doesn’t feel right. We don’t know anything, and we haven’t been updated,” Cox said. “It’s a different emotion every day. Some days I wake up, and I’m upset. Some days, I wake up, and I’m hurt. Some days, I feel hopeful that the truth is going to come out. … We don’t know what happened. We weren’t there.”

While it would be painful for her, Cox said being able to see the dashcam or bodycam footage of the altercation would bring her some form of peace by allowing her to fully understand the circumstances that led to her brother’s death.

“I just want to see that [the police] did their job correctly,” Cox said. “Because my brother is not here, I don’t believe they did. I don’t believe that they had to kill him.”

Until she can get more answers, Cox said she just wants the world to know Applewhite as she knew him — a kind, happy person, who was more than the charges listed against him in news reports.

Applewhite’s past charges include a 2015 guilty plea to robbery, stemming from an incident where Applewhite waited outside in a getaway car while his friends robbed a home with an unloaded gun.

“He made mistakes, but he admitted his mistakes and served his time,” Cox said. “I want people to remember that he was a really great person who always had a big, ole smile on his face. Anytime he met someone, he was very kind, very respectful. The love he showed us was so amazing.”

While attending Ring Lardner Middle School and Niles High School, Applewhite played football and was a track team member. His social media profile lists him as having attended Indiana University South Bend, and friends say he most recently worked at Hacienda Mexican Restaurant in Elkhart.

“He was only 25 years old, and he had his whole life ahead of him,” Cox said. “My brother had never been out of the country. He had never even traveled much outside of the Midwest. … I wanted him to see how much more there was to life.”

Applewhite will be laid to rest next week in Arizona.