Although the Soviets later claimed that Nicholson died instantly, an autopsy indicated that he had actually bled to death while on the ground. Even as more senior Soviet personnel arrived, no medical aid for Nicholson was provided and no one checked his conditions for two hours after he was shot. After an attempt by the Soviets to perform an autopsy of Nicholson and a demand by General Glenn K. Otis that they return the body, Nicholson's body was returned to the U.S. Army at the Glienicke Bridge in Berlin. On March 30, 1985, Nicholson was buried at Arlington National Cemetery. He was posthumously awarded the Purple Heart and the Legion of Merit as well as promoted to Lieutenant Colonel. The Soviets contended that the response of Sergeant Ryabtsev, as a guard, had been appropriate in confronting an "unknown intruder who did not comply with the warnings of the sentry, and also stated that the area that Major Nicholson was in was "off-limits" to military liaison mission operations, as well as placing blame for the incident on the United States.
At a subsequent meeting between General Otis and General Mikhail Zaitsev, the commander of Group of Soviet Forces Germany, General Otis made it clear that the U.S. Army believed that Nicholson's murder "[was] officially condoned, if not directly ordered." Following this, a Soviet diplomat was ordered out of the U.S. and the U.S. canceled plans to jointly celebrate the 40th anniversary of the end of the Second World War in Europe with the Soviets.The incident was also the first major foreign policy crisis faced by Mikhail Gorbachev as leader of the Soviet Union. The relatively muted U.S. response drew criticism from various sources, among them George Will.
Further negotiations over the shooting resulted in the Soviets issuing instructions to their personnel that the use of force or weapons against Allied military liaison personnel was strictly forbidden. However, in 1987, another incident took place in which Soviet soldiers fired at USMLM personnel, one of whom was wounded. In 1988, Soviet Defense Minister Dmitry Yazov officially apologized for the death of Major Nicholson to U.S. Defense Secretary Frank C. Carlucci at a summit conference in Moscow.
You can read the once Classified Official Report on Nicholson's death by clicking on the links below.Nicholson Report Part 1Nicholson Report Part 2Nicholson Report Part 3Nicholson Report Part 4Nicholson Report Part 5