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ARNOLD, Mo. — Years after an Arnold police officer was shot in the line of duty, his stepson has taken the oath to protect and serve, representing the same police department.

Thursday night, 21-year-old Aidan Gansner fulfilled his dream to follow in the footsteps of his stepfather, Ryan O’Connor.

“Just being at the station every day is a reminder of Ryan – and that’s what I love about it so much.  I’m so happy to be working where he worked,” Gansner said.

Gansner graduated from the Jefferson College Law Enforcement Academy. He had been in the Police Explorers program since 2014 and then went through the academy for one year.

O’Connor was shot in the back of the head by a burglary suspect in December of 2017.

“I won’t lie. When everything first happened, it was a very challenging time,” said Gansner. “And I did re-think a lot of things in my life.  But overall, I was pretty firm in my belief that this was a calling. I was meant to do this job, and I still believe that.”

O’Connor’s wife and Gansner’s mother, Barbara, said she couldn’t be more proud.

“He could have easily walked away and said it’s too big of a risk just with everything that happened with Ryan,” she said. “But he stuck it out. And I couldn’t be more proud of his commitment and dedication. He really,  really knows that this is his calling.”

O’Connor sat in the front row of the graduation ceremony, also pleased for Aidan’s big accomplishment.

“It’s just an honor and a privilege for Aidan. I’m just proud of him,” O’Connor said.