It’s no big secret that law enforcement and other first responders have very dangerous jobs.
As recently as earlier this month, a senior North Augusta Public Safety Officer was injured after a car chase and shooting with a suspect in broad daylight on one of the city’s main thoroughfares.
But a decade ago, the Aiken community was struck by the unthinkable. Twice.
Master Public Safety Officer Scotty Richardson was killed at a traffic stop a few days before Christmas. Then five weeks later, Master Cpl. Sandy Rogers was fatally shot answering a phone call off duty.
In a matter of days, the Aiken Department of Public Safety lost two good officers. The Richardson and Rogers families suffered unspeakable tragedies. And the Aiken community was shaken to the core.
Reporter Alexandra Koch spoke to family members, friends and public safety officials about today’s front page article marking the 10th anniversary of the tragic shootings. The healing process takes time, she was told, and understandably the process is ongoing for many.
Not surprisingly, family and friends cited numerous examples of the good deeds of Richardson and Rogers. Both were humble. Both went out of their way to help others. Both were respected by their colleagues.
According to the Officer Down Memorial Page, there have been more than 25,000 deaths since the United States was founded in 1776, including 410 in the state of South Carolina.
Seven officers died on duty in the city of Aiken. Six were shot dead and police officer Harold Michael Harvey was electrocuted while on duty in 1978. Six people were killed in the Aiken County Sheriff’s office: five people and a K9.
After the deaths of Richardson and Rogers, a number of initiatives were launched to provide opportunities for the community to grieve and move forward. The Aiken Safe Communities Initiative focused on reducing relapses in the area, and the Citizens Academy gave Aiken residents an insight into daily activities at ADPS.
Two support groups formed around the time of the two shootings are also strong. Support 1 offers free training to first responders who have had a traumatic experience. In addition to the badge, spouses of Aiken’s Public Safety Officers were formed and held events to bring law enforcement families together.
Charles Barranco, chief of public safety at Aiken, officially began his tenure as head of the department between the deaths of Richardson and Rogers. Public Safety’s new headquarters, not far from where Richardson was murdered, serves as a memorial for those killed on duty. The seven plaques of the deceased, including Richardson and Rogers, hang prominently in the front lobby.
Barranco also told a story that speaks volumes about the officials who serve and protect our community. At Richardson’s funeral, Rogers was asked what the department was going to do. “We’ll carry on,” she said.
A decade later, the Aiken County’s law enforcement community is still going strong. Officers like Richardson and Rogers and the others killed on duty should always be remembered.
Always keep in mind how dangerous these jobs can be for law enforcement and first responders. We pray for their safety every day and appreciate everything they do for our community.