A 26-year-old man with a history of trouble with authorities was arrested in connection with the killing of an Aiken police officer Saturday, just hours after, police say, he fatally shot his girlfriend in Augusta.
Joshua Tremaine Jones is being held in the Aiken County Detention Center. He was arrested at 11:35 a.m. on Youman Street in Batesburg, S.C., said Kathryn Richardson, a spokeswoman for South Carolina Law Enforcement Division.
Four hours earlier, police say Jones shot Master Cpl. Sandra Rogers, a 27-year veteran of Aiken Public Safety, who later died at Aiken Regional Medical Centers.
While authorities in South Carolina were searching for Jones, deputies in Richmond County discovered the body of his 21-year-old girlfriend, Cayce Vice, in her apartment on Washington Road. She had been shot in the head.
Jones will be charged in Vice’s slaying, said Richmond County sheriff’s Capt. Scott Peebles. The sheriff’s office obtained warrants for murder and possession of a firearm by a convicted felon, he said.
At 7:30 a.m. Saturday, Rogers, 48, responded to a call of suspicious activity at Eustis Park on Edgefield Avenue in Aiken. Almost immediately, she was shot by the driver of a metallic blue BMW, which was spotted leaving the scene by other officers responding to the call.
Sonya Drummings, who lives on the corner of the park, said her daughter heard three gunshots and woke her up. When she ran to the door, she saw chaos in the park.
“It is usually a quiet neighborhood. I actually felt pretty safe here,” she said. “No one deserves to die doing their job.”
Authorities found Jones about 30 miles away on the north side of Batesburg, and he was taken into custody without incident.
Rogers’ death comes just a little more than a month after Aiken Officer Scotty Richardson was shot and killed while on a traffic call at the entrance of Pace’s Run apartments on Brandt Court in Aiken. Three months ago, Richmond County Deputy J.D. Paugh was killed in the line of duty.
“It’s like a horrible nightmare playing over in front of us,” Sgt. Aaron Dowdy said in Eustis Park. “I’m still wearing a Richardson band on my wrist.”
With tears in his eyes, new Aiken Public Safety Director Charles Barranco asked for the city of Aiken’s support as his office faces another tragedy.
“Thanks to the community for standing next to us again, and always,” he said at a news conference Saturday evening to announce that Rogers had died and Jones would be charged.
Attending the news conference was Jones’ father, James, who said the BMW was his and that his son had taken it Friday night.
“My heart goes out to officer Rogers’ family,” James Jones said. “There is great pain for all of us.”
Joshua Jones was born in North Augusta and attended North Augusta High School, although he did not graduate, his father said.
James Jones said his son had been “going through a lot of mental issues.”
“My condolences for Rogers and Cayce,” he said. “This is not in character of my family. I have to leave it in the hands of God.”
Rogers had been a part of Aiken Public Safety since 1984.
She received a distinguished service award and a lifesaving award in 2003 and a Certificate of Commendation in 2011.
“Master Cpl. Rogers was an invaluable street cop who exemplified the model of a Public Safety Officer,” Sgt. Jake Mahoney said.
Worst fears realized
On Friday night, the blue BMW was spotted outside the apartment building where Vice lived at The Greens on Washington, a complex on Washington Road in Augusta. Peebles said investigators are still working on the details of Vice’s killing, but it likely occurred late Friday night or early Saturday.
Downstairs neighbor Harry Parker said Jones was unfriendly and didn’t interact with others in the apartment complex.
“If you spoke to him he didn’t speak,” Parker said.
Parker said he heard a loud thud and rumbling noises in the upstairs apartment Friday night that sounded like someone was running, or “hurrying to pack up and go.”
Donna Rigdon knew something was wrong when Vice didn’t show up for her 10 a.m. shift at Five Guys Burgers and Fries. Vice had worked at Five Guys for about two years and was never late.
“She was a great worker,” said Rigdon, the general manager at the Washington Road restaurant.
When she got no answer from Vice’s phone she was immediately concerned. Vice had missed almost two weeks of work recently after she said she was beaten by her boyfriend. Peebles confirmed that Vice had sworn a complaint against Jones for the assault around Jan. 8.
“He punched her in the face repeatedly,” Peebles said. A warrant for simple battery was taken out for his arrest, but deputies had not caught up with him, Peebles said.
Rigdon said Vice had recently let Jones back into her life because she was pregnant. She said she had counseled her against the idea, but Vice wouldn’t listen.
Not long after 10 a.m., Rigdon was on her way to Vice’s apartment, a little more than a mile away. Rigdon said she called the sheriff’s office to help her check on her employee.
“I just wanted to make sure she was OK,” she said.
Just after 10:40 a.m., Rigdon waited outside the apartment while the manager opened the door for a sheriff’s deputy.
“He came back and said, ‘This is now a crime scene,’ ” she said. “I was devastated.”
Peebles said Jones was a suspect in the slaying “almost immediately.” He has a history of arrests in Georgia and South Carolina dating back at least to 2002. Reports show he was charged as a juvenile at the age of 16 in an assault on his father in their Belvedere home in January 2002. Officials said Jones stabbed his father twice in the back and was sent to a juvenile justice facility in South Carolina.
A family’s sorrow
On Saturday afternoon, Howard Vice sat on the floor drinking his last beer at his barren apartment, not far from his daughter’s in The Greens. He wondered what he could have done to stop what had occurred.
“The police told me he shot her in the head in bed,” he said, shaking his head.
Howard Vice said he had been living with his daughter and Jones until last month, when they had a falling out over her boyfriend. He said he didn’t get along with Jones, who had moved in Oct. 31.
“There’s something wrong with a man when he stays in his bedroom all day long and don’t come out,” Howard Vice said. “I knew there was something wrong.”
Vice said his daughter had just turned 21 on Wednesday and was a “few weeks” pregnant.
“He beat her up about two weeks ago,” he said, offering a photo of his daughter’s battered face that he still has on his cell phone. “She turned right around and let him back in.”
He said his daughter dropped out of Westside High School and obtained a GED. She had been working and attending Augusta Technical College to become a medical assistant.
Ginny Vice said she spoke to her sister on the phone almost every day, but she didn’t know Jones had returned to the apartment.
“She was lying to me. She didn’t want me to know,” Ginny Vice said. “She knew we did not want him around her.”
Howard Vice said he was frustrated that Jones had never been arrested in connection with the assault on his daughter. If he had, the killings might not have happened, he said.
“The police let it go and now one of their own is dead,” he said. “But I can’t be mad at the police, she let him come back.”