AIKEN — Bethany Cemetery was a sea of uniforms Tuesday afternoon as friends, family, community members and law enforcement officers gathered to lay Aiken Master Public Safety Officer Scotty Richardson to rest.
“We don’t know why these things happen, Lord, but we leave him in your hands best we can,” said Public Safety Chaplain Tad Marshall.
Richardson, 33, was fatally wounded Dec. 20 after a traffic stop. The suspect, Stephon M. Carter, 19, remains hospitalized with a gunshot wound.
Aiken County Investigator Sean Zeigler, who played the trumpet as a child, pulled his instrument back out as a final salute to his friend and co-worker. After a three volley salute fired by Aiken County officers, Zeigler played taps. The only other sound was quiet sobs from the crowd.
After Richardson’s widow, Amelyn, was presented with a folded flag, dispatch sent an alert signal through the sound system. Faces flinched throughout the crowd as fellow officers prepared to give a final goodbye to their friend: “Officer Scotty Richardson is now 10-42.”
Outside the cemetery, many who lined the streets along the funeral procession said they did not know the fallen policeman but wanted to honor him.
Colleen Burns said she stood at Laurens Street and Hampton Avenue for hours to show her respect for the risks Richardson and his fellow officers take every day.
“I grew up around a lot of officers, and we’ve lost some of them over the years,” she said. “It’s important to show that what they do is important to us.”
Many others gathered earlier Tuesday for a memorial service at the Convocation Center at the University of South Carolina Aiken, Richardson’s alma mater.
Above the stage, photos of Richardson’s childhood, wedding and three sons appeared on two large screens.
The service filled the large venue with fellow officers, acquaintances and members of the community who had never met him, but wanted to show support.
Tim Harley took the microphone to speak about Richardson’s childhood. Harley said that even when Richardson was a child, he always looked out for his friends.
When his mother told him she would start a tab for him at a sandwich shop so he could get a bite after school each day, she got a call within a week that said her tab was $100. When she asked why, the owner said Richardson brought at least three friends with him.
Richardson was also a devoted family man, Harley said. His widow, Amelyn, was in the front row with their three boys: Zander, 5; Chase, 4; and Maddox, 16 months. Harley said Maddox would only fall asleep if he was lying across his father’s chest.
Aiken Public Safety Lt. David Turno and Director Pete Frommer both joked about Richardson’s heavy foot. He only had one point left on his driver’s license when he asked about becoming a police officer. Frommer told him to come back in one year without any speeding tickets. He walked through the door one year later to the day.
“He was like a sponge,” Frommer said. “He wanted to learn everything he could about the department.”
Richardson completed the probation period, which normally takes a year, in eight months. Besides basic training, he had 1,460 hours of advance training. He held many certificates and qualifications above being a police officer, including being an arson investigator and a bloodhound handler, and he showed young parents how to properly install child car seats, Frommer said.
He also received the South Carolina Public Safety Hero’s Award for his work on the DUI program. He not only took impaired drivers off the road, but he also often spoke to the public about it.
Frommer said he can tell an officer is special when he gets calls of thanks from people who have been ticketed.
“He spoke to them in a way that they knew he wanted to help,” Frommer said. “That was who he was.”