AIKEN — A stunned Jack Rogers stared Sunday evening at the candles Aiken residents had set in a small circle in the ground at Eustis Park.
Leaning heavily on a cane and accompanied by a uniformed officer on each elbow, Rogers looked silently at the tiny dancing flames before being escorted away.
His daughter, Aiken Public Safety Master Cpl. Sandra Rogers, was shot around 7:30 a.m. Saturday, in the very spot he stood, while responding to a suspicious vehicle reported by a neighbor. She died later at Aiken Regional Medical Centers.
Less than five weeks earlier, Master Officer Scott Richardson was gunned down across town.
A prayer vigil and a rally for peace was held Sunday evening where Rogers was shot. Organized just 24 hours before on Facebook by SHARP, or Sisters Honoring African Rites of Passage, and BOLD, or Brothers Offering Leadership Diversity, a few hundred people came out in support.
Both officer slayings led to the arrests of young men. Joshua Jones, 26, is charged with the killing of Rogers, and he is the suspect in the fatal shooting of his pregnant girlfriend, Cayce Vice. Stephon Morrell Carter, 19, has been charged with Richardson’s death.
The rally was a prayer for peace as well as a way to show Aiken residents that not all young people turn to violence, organizer Jared Holloway said.
“We, the youth of Aiken, have a different face,” he said.
Another organizer, Rozlyn Humphrey, said she thought the kids need someone to talk to and to look up to.
“They need positive groups to join,” she said. “It can’t be just a message from the elders; it needs to come from other young people.”
During the rally, white balloons were released as a sign for peace, and “flowers of remembrance” were laid where Rogers was shot.
“We pray for peace of the souls of Master Public Safety Officer Scotty Richardson, Cpl. Sandra Rogers, Ms. Cayce Vice and her unborn,” Holloway said.
The organizers said Aiken needed to come together to pray for their community. Twenty-four hours after they decided to act, Aiken showed up.