COLUMBIA — The man suspected of slaying an Aiken County police officer was armed with her gun as he led authorities on a car chase that exceeded speeds of 110 mph, according to dozens of 911 calls, radio traffic and dispatcher recordings obtained by The Associated Press Wednesday under an open-records request.
The calls began pouring in after the Jan. 28 shooting of Master Cpl. Sandy Rogers, 49. Rogers was the second Aiken officer killed on the job since December and the first female officer killed in the line of duty in South Carolina history.
Rogers was shot responding to a suspicious activity call in an Aiken neighborhood. Police say 26-year-old Joshua Tremaine Jones opened fire on Rogers hours after gunning down his girlfriend, Cayce Vice, in her Augusta, Ga., apartment. Jones is being held in the Aiken County jail on a murder charge in the officer’s slaying and also faces a murder charge in Georgia in Vice’s death.
Earlier that morning, a local neighborhood watch member called 911 to report a suspicious car in the area.
“They’re selling drugs,” the man said. “They’re not quoting Bible scriptures. They’re not selling Bibles.”
Officers were sent to the scene. Later, the same man called back to report the shooting.
“The police just got shot!” the man yelled. “We need backup!”
Another officer called in to report, “Officer down.” Operators alerted other officers to the shooting and let them know to pursue a blue car.
Shortly thereafter, requests came in for an ambulance, then a medical helicopter.
Officers also called in from their pursuit of Jones, a chase they reported to operators had risen to speeds of 80 mph and exceeded 100 mph up a two-lane road between Aiken and Interstate 20.
“I was going 110 and he’s still leaving me in the dust here,” one officer said, adding that he was never close enough to see a license plate.
An operator also said officers had lost sight of the suspect’s car near I-20, about five miles from the shooting. Officers said they would analyze their dashcam video in the field and at headquarters to glean more information about where they last saw Jones’ car.
Jones was arrested later that day in Batesburg-Leesville.
A Highway Patrol officer also called in to get information on the pursuit. Giving him details on the shooting and pursuit, the same operator who had fielded the majority of the morning’s calls later began crying when yet another caller asked what was going on.
“I think it’s Sandy. They’ve got her gun,” the operator said, her voice cracking.
In a later call, the same operator openly cried: “Sandy Rogers was shot.”
The neighborhood watch representative subsequently called back with a question: “Have we caught those bastards yet?”
The calls end with one from Chief Charles Barranco, who had been in the role for just a week when Richardson was shot.
“I have SLED on the way,” Barranco told the operator. “We need to make sure as much information can get out on that vehicle.”
Dashcam video from Rogers’ shooting has not been released. A judge has blocked the release of video from the first of the two Aiken police shootings, Officer Scotty Richardson, siding with siding with attorneys for the suspect who said the release would hamper their client’s chances at a fair trial.
Richardson, a 33-year-old father of three, died in the early hours of Dec. 21 after being shot in the head during a traffic stop. Police have charged 19-year-old Stephon Carter with Richardson’s murder, as well as the attempted murder of another officer shot and wounded that night.
The AP has submitted open records requests in both cases. Prosecutors are considering if they will pursue the death penalty.