A couple of weeks ago we were on the way home from work and school when the radio station I was listening to reported the death of a police officer during a traffic stop at Virginia Tech earlier that day. The news broadcaster announced the officer’s name and I shook my head.
I didn’t know his name, of course, but it still hurt.
Then I noticed the loud sniffling coming from the back seat. I looked quickly into the rear view mirror to see huge tears raining down the cheeks of our 6-year-old daughter, Sara. She was absolutely distraught. I asked her what was wrong and she repeated what she’d heard.
“They said that someone shot a police officer and killed him,” she sobbed through the tears. “Why would somebody do that?”
I swallowed hard – a couple of times.
Then I explained as best I could that we live in a world where bad things happen sometimes and that bad things sometimes happen to good people. You see, in Sara’s hierarchy of respect, which I hope reflects the level of admiration and honor we bestow upon law enforcement officers in our home, police officers are listed right after God himself.
She simply couldn’t wrap her mind around such a tragedy.
Then this morning when I arrived at work I learned that an Aiken Public Safety Officer had been killed the night before in a shootout following a traffic stop. I quickly looked for additional information and my heart sank when I read that the officer who had been killed was Scotty Richardson.
I did know his name.
Growing up, I can remember playing with Scotty when I would go over to his cousin’s house in Aiken. Our families knew each other pretty well through a deep friendship between my grandmother and Scotty’s aunt. Scotty’s folks also ran a florist shop in Aiken and I would see him from time to time there or around town. I knew he had embarked on a career in law enforcement, I had just forgotten which department he was working for.
That Scotty Richardson became a police officer surprised no one who knew him. He would always greet you with a huge smile (he was always smiling, it seemed), and would help anyone with anything he could. He was everything that we imagine a police officer to be – honorable, trustworthy, kind and brave. He was the kind of man you want behind that badge.
Reading on, I slumped down a little lower in my chair this morning, still thankful at the news that fellow ADPS officer Travis Griffin had been released from the hospital.
Scotty was married and had three children. I can only imagine the horror that has enveloped the family over the last 12 hours and the insurmountable grief and deep sense of loss which will now be a part of their lives forever.
I think about my daughter’s tears for an officer she never even met and my heart is crushed for Scotty’s wife and children on the eve of Christmas. That’s why the men and women in law enforcement are heroes, one and all. A hero knows the danger faced and steps out the door for work each day anyway.
Scotty Richardson was that kind of person, a good man who will never be replaced. Pray for his family today and honor his sacrifice in whatever way you can.
And the next time you feel agitated when you’ve been pulled over by a police officer why not stop and say, “Thank you.” They just placed themselves in harm’s way by walking to your door.
This morning brought terrible news.
This time I knew the hero’s name.
And yes, it still hurts.