Lodged in a case of dark, brown wood and glass in the lobby of the Aiken Public Safety Department are four black-framed portraits dedicated to the memory of four officers who died in the line of duty.
It will be Public Safety Director Pete Frommer’s sorrowful job to add a fifth.
Frommer, who has spent 40 years in an Aiken uniform, worried the day would come and prayed that it wouldn’t.
“I got the phone call last night at my house and it is a phone call I never wanted to get,” a red-eyed Frommer said, referring to the call that informed him of the fatal shooting of Master Public Safety Officer Scotty Richardson on Tuesday night.
There were more than a few red-eyed officers working at Aiken Public Safety on Wednesday, whether it was from grief or fatigue, as the department was dealing with the death of one of its own.
“This was a very tragic event last night. The department is hurting, but we’ve got a lot of good people here and we are strong,” he said.
Frommer said the department brought in counselors and chaplains Tuesday night to assist officers with their grief and about a dozen officers were on temporary leave until he was certain they were ready to come back to work.
Richardson’s death was a blow made all the worse because of his lifelong connection to the community, officers said. He grew up in Aiken and graduated from South Aiken High School and the University of South Carolina Aiken. He attended Millbrook Baptist Church with his parents, Richard and Pat Richardson, who were local business owners.
“Scotty was quiet, he didn’t say a whole bunch. He was a humble guy,” Frommer said. “He was an Aiken kid who loved his community.”
Richardson began his career with Aiken Public Safety in 1999 as a cadet and worked his way to a driver operator on a fire truck at the department and then became an officer in 2005.
He lived in Columbia with his wife, Amelyn, and his three young sons, Zander, 5, Chase, 4, and Maddox, 16 months. He commuted more than 50 miles each day to work, which was one of the main reasons why his family was trying to sell its home and move back to Aiken, according to Gray Farnsworth, a Columbia Realtor.
“I think they wanted to move closer to his wife’s family and the grandparents,” Farnsworth said.
Frommer said there has been a deluge of phone calls, letters and e-mails from the community offering condolences and assistance to the department and the officer’s family. He expects that a scholarship fund will be established in his name to accept some of the monetary donations being offered.
Officers were also posted outside Richardson’s parents’ house on East Pine Log Road to handle traffic from the constant flow of friends and others who were coming by.
“Scotty Richardson was a rock star,” said his former supervisor Sgt. J.D. Mahoney, explaining that Richardson possessed a humble magnetism that drew people in. “Everybody – I mean everybody – really liked Scotty.”