Next year, the family and co-workers of Aiken County Sheriff’s Office Master Cpl. Sandra Rogers will attend the same event.
“We are all still suffering,” Aiken Public Safety Capt. Maryann Burgess said. “This is a great honor for (Richardson). We are thrilled we can take part in this ceremony.”
Richardson was shot Dec. 20 while on a traffic stop outside Pace’s Run Apartments and died in the hospital a few hours later. About a month later, Rogers was shot and killed Jan. 28 while checking on a suspicious vehicle at Aiken’s Eustis Park.
On Oct. 23, Paugh stopped to check on a suspicious vehicle in the grass on the shoulder of Bobby Jones Expressway. Within seconds, he was shot nine times with an assault rifle and died at the scene.
Through fundraising by Augusta and Aiken residents, survivors of both men will participate in a candlelight vigil and the 31st Annual National Peace Officers’ Memorial Service as part of National Police Week this weekend. They will be joined by thousands of officers and family members of officers killed last year.
The trip also offers an opportunity for training and grief counseling. Burgess said the family members who are going are put in groups and sent to specific seminars. There are different sessions for co-workers, parents, siblings and children.
The Richmond County deputies attending, most of whom are in the motorcycle division, will participate in two memorial rides while in the capital.
Neither department would be going on this trip without the help of their communities.
In Augusta, there were fund-raisers held at local bars, including Carolina Ale House and Wild Wings Café. Both held “bike nights” where raffles and donations were made and a percentage of proceeds were given toward the trip.
“It would not have been possible to send the amount of people to D.C. to be with J.D.’s loved ones without donations from the community,” Richmond County sheriff’s Capt. Scott Gay said.
The city of Aiken also came together quickly after Richardson’s death. Richard Heaton, the owner of TLC Medical Centre, said he saw people come into his pharmacy every day who were distraught about the officers. He believed the community needed a place to focus its grief, and he thought raising money to send the officers to D.C. was a good idea.
“We wanted to bring awareness to the issue,” he said. “So we donated $1,000 from us and hoped others would follow. They did.”
Another Aiken group called Beside the Badge, which includes spouses of police officers and other supporters of law enforcement, also decided to raise money for the trip to D.C.
They made T-shirts with the inscription “We go on,” which Rogers said after the loss of Richardson. The group thought it was a good tribute to her.
They set out to make a few thousand dollars and ended up presenting Aiken Public Safety with a $17,000 check this week.
“Being the strong people we are, we knew we could do something,” said fundraising chairwoman Elizabeth Harm. “But we had no idea how much the community would support the effort.”
Aiken has raised almost $25,000, Burgess said, which should be enough to cover trips to D.C. this year and next year.
“It speaks volumes for our community,” Burgess said. “They raised the money; they showed support.”