North Charleston has changed a great deal in the 28 years since Patrolman Tony Way was killed in a shootout behind a bar on Rivers Avenue, but one thing is the same: Way is the city’s only officer killed in the line of duty.

Tonight the city presented his widow, Audrey Way, with a posthumous Medal of Valor to recognize his service.

Mortally wounded in the shootout, Way returned fire and killed his attacker in the Feb. 18, 1985, incident.

His portrait hangs in the Police Department’s squad room, and the entrance road to the North Charleston Performing Arts Center is named for Way.

“It still blows me away, how much they care,” Audrey Way said.

Her husband’s death prompted criticism of a bond reduction process in place at the time due to jail overcrowding, which allowed Way’s killer, Gerald Wayne Smoak, to post $500 and get out of jail about a week before the shooting.

Smoak, a 37-year-old father of three with a long history of breaking-and-entering arrests, had no record of violent crime. But 10 days after Smoak posted bail, police say he laid an ambush to retaliate for his latest arrest, triggering an alarm at the same bar where he’d been arrested previously.

Read more in Friday’s Post and Courier.