BALTIMORE (WJZ) — Karen Evetta Shelton, Baltimore County’s first female African American police officer, was laid to rest Saturday.

Shelton made history and was one of nine African American officers who founded Blue Guardians in 1986.

Her family told WJZ Shelton was known for her charisma and infectious laughter.

“She was funny, intelligent, brave, fearless. She was just a wonderful, wonderful person,” Ronald Richardson, Shelton’s cousin, said.

“My mom was an incredible spirit,” Shara Khon Duncan, Shelton’s daughter, said. “She was a force to be reckoned with. She was a trailblazer and she was the kind of person that people were drawn to.”

Duncan, Shelton’s oldest daughter, said her mom was a pioneer in the workforce. She was first hired by the Baltimore City Police Department in 1973, but was fired before her probationary period ended.

Duncan said her mom never gave up.

“She was the kind of person where she decided that, if you expected her to file complaints, that’s not what she would do,” Duncan said. “She figured she would kill you with kindness. She would make you laugh and just win you over.”

Two years later, she joined the Baltimore County Police Department and made history.

“She was a pioneer,” Richardson said. “That is who she was. She’s a pioneer.”

Shelton then went on to become a founding member of the Blue Guardians – an organization of African American police officers in Baltimore – to continue fighting for minority officers.

“She was an icon,” President of Blue Guardians Anthony Russell Sr. said. “She was a visionary. She tried to ensure that everyone who came after her got fair treatment.”

Shelton died from advanced dementia, leaving behind three children and six grandchildren, but her legacy will live on.

“We will relentlessly fight for the things she started,” Russell Sr. said. “We will not stop.”

Starting this year, the Blue Guardians will now honor Shelton with the Karen Shelton Award that goes to young, female minority officers in the police department.

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