In the shadow of the apartment complex where Master Public Safety Officer Scotty Richardson lost his life in the line of duty, Aiken police, elected officials and residents broke ground Sunday on a new headquarters for its Public Safety Department.
The city is repurposing an old Food Lion grocery store at 843 Beaufort St. and will name it for retired Chief J. Carrol Busbee, who pioneered the combination police-fire concept in Aiken and became its first leader in 1970.
Among the speakers Sunday was City Councilwoman Gail Diggs, who represents District 1, where the new building will be located, and where Richardson was killed at the Pace’s Run apartment complex a few hundred yards away.
From a neighbor’s house, she heard the gunshots that killed Richardson about a month after she was elected in November 2011.
“I’ll never forget that night,” Diggs said. “I still cry when I think about that night. And this is nothing new for this district. … We’ve had over 400 incidents in the last two years here alone.”
The most recent fatal shooting at Pace’s Run was on Oct. 1, when a Ward, S.C., man was gunned down. Two men have been charged in his death.
But with a stronger police presence and community cooperation, better days are ahead, Diggs said.
“We refuse to let anybody run us out of our neighborhood,” she said to applause.
The headquarters is much more than a building – it’s “a godsend,” she said.
“This building is about change – change of attitude for us, for our neighbors, and hope for people,” she said. “This means so much for us, and we know the choice of this location was not an accident. The residents of this neighborhood have been praying for a solution.”
Mayor Rick Osbon also mentioned Richardson and Master Cpl. Sandy Rogers, who was killed just a few months after Richardson and only about 2 miles from where he fell.
“I want to say this to the Rogers and Richardson families: This building will be something that will honor the sacrifice of Sandy and Scotty, and it will be something that we’ll be proud of,” he said.
The city had struggled to find the money to build a new station from the ground up, but it found a way to get it done by switching to the idea of repurposing the old supermarket, he said.
“This represents the best of Aiken,” Osbon said of the cooperation it took among public safety, council and District 1 residents.
Busbee, who began fighting fires in Aiken as a volunteer in 1957, when he was honorably discharged from the Navy after serving in the Korean War, also talked about what the new headquarters will mean for the people who live closest to it.
“It takes doing things together, and for each other, that you make it through life,” he said. “Today, we’ve reached a milestone that will allow us to better serve this community.”