AIKEN — Aiken Public Safety Master Cpl. Sandra Rogers was a protector.
“Everybody knew that those who worked with her went home,” said fellow Officer Sandy NeSmith.
Rogers was never off the clock and always looked out for her own. She worked for the department for 27 years and took calls from co-workers anytime, day or night.
“She would stay late,” NeSmith said. “Everybody on my shift went to her for answers.”
Rogers’ biggest concern was getting all of her co-workers home to their families.
“It’s a little ironic,” said NeSmith. “But she always preached that everyone goes home at the end of their shift, every night.”
Rogers was shot Saturday while she was checking on a suspicious vehicle. She was taken to Aiken Regional Medical Centers, where she later died from her injuries.
The South Carolina Law Enforcement Division arrested Joshua Tremaine Jones, 26, in connection with the slaying. Jones has also been charged in the shooting death of his pregnant girlfriend, Cayce Vice, earlier Saturday in Augusta. He is being held at the Aiken County Detention Center.
Rogers had police work in her blood. Her grandfather James M. Sprawls was an Aiken police chief, according to her obituary. She received the Distinguished Service award and the Lifesaving Award in 2003 and a certificate of commendation in 2011.
She and Capt. Ray Scott joined the force at the same time. For almost 30 years, they have risen up the ranks together. Scott, who is now in charge of investigations, said Rogers worked with him for a year but then moved back to road patrol because she missed the action.
“She loved the streets,” Scott said.
He said that throughout their long history, Rogers was always a compassionate officer who cared deeply about the department.
“I thought the world of Sandy. I will truly miss her,” he said.
Penny Stanford, who knew Rogers for 27 years, said Rogers had arrested a young man Friday. The man approached Stanford at a prayer vigil Sunday evening in Eustis Park.
The young man had planned to call Rogers on Monday and thank her for changing his life. He said she had convinced him to take his life in a different direction and stay out of trouble.
“That’s the kind of officer she was,” Stanford said. “What a difference she made in just the few minutes she spent with him.”
Rogers was a lifelong Aiken resident. Kim Anderson Ray, a lawyer, went to Aiken High School with Rogers and said Rogers’ family is well-respected in the community.
“We have suffered a terrible loss,” she said. “I was literally shaking.”
Aiken was very close to Rogers’ heart. She was a mentor for troubled individuals, her obituary says. She also helped start, along with her mother and sister, the Book Bag Program for Helping Hands. Helping Hands is a residential shelter in Aiken for children who have been removed from their homes because of abuse or neglect.
“She was a sweet lady,” Scott said.
Rogers’ family and friends gathered at the vigil to share stories about her and remember the friend and public servant. They said she spent the little time she was not patrolling the streets on her boat. She liked to relax at Lake Murray with family and friends.
“You know what I will miss most about her?” Stanford said. “Her smile and her laugh.”