Sandy Rogers loved her job. Law enforcement was in her blood and ran through her veins. Sandy was the granddaughter of the late City of Aiken Chief of Police James M. Sprawls. Her career was the one that she always intended to have, and she did it well. She received honors and distinctions throughout her many years of devoted service, which ended just short of her 28th anniversary on the force, and exactly two weeks shy of her 49th birthday. While investigating a suspicious vehicle on Saturday, January 28th, 2012, our sister, the youngest in our family of four Aiken-born children, was shot and killed. In dying, she earned one further distinction, one that none of us wanted. She was the first woman police officer slain in the line of duty in the State of South Carolina.
Public Safety Chief Charles Barranco had barely been on the job a week when he was alerted that something was very wrong that fateful morning. This came just thirty-seven days after our sister herself mourned the death of fellow Aiken Master Public Safety Officer Scotty Richardson, a friend and a colleague. This untimely circumstance meant there was recent experience to draw upon in dealing with the loss of a police officer. The loss of Sandy and Scotty has deprived the department and community of their combined thirty-six years of law enforcement experience.
Throughout this tragic ordeal we have felt the presence of God through your support, your outpouring of prayers, thoughts of remembrance, cards, notes, food, flowers, and heartfelt and sometimes funny stories about Sandy. Many of you shared with us how Sandy had touched your life; how she made a difference. The support we have been given from this community has been overwhelming and very humbling.
On behalf of Sandy’s family, we want to try to express our deepest thanks. So many did so much to “carry her home” to the loving arms of our recently departed dear mother, Dr. Mary Ann Sprawls Rogers.
Our thanks go out to the officers, firefighters, and medics who cared for Sandy that morning, and to the officers who accompanied Chief Barranco to our home. The Aiken Department of Public Safety family continues to do more than we could have ever expected.
Our thanks go out to the Emergency Room Staff on duty at the Aiken Regional Medical Center, and to our church family who surrounded us with their love and support. To Robbie Shellhouse and Mitch Rivers, you each had a special part in guiding us through those surreal conversations as arrangements were made to send our sister home.
Our thanks and appreciation goes to those of you who came to the visitation, and waited in line for such a long time to pay tribute and show your respect. We worried about how long you had to wait, yet we rejoiced in your presence and your show of support. Sandy would have been the first one to ask why the big fuss was being made about her. Yet, she would have been so proud and grateful to see the support of the community, and to see the strength of our city after the loss of another Public Safety Officer. This support shows that we will not be compromised by these deadly acts of cowards.
We were told that the funeral would be too large to have at our beloved St. John’s United Methodist Church. The Rev. Dr. George Howle, our family’s Pastor, guided us through how we could make the University of South Carolina Aiken Convocation Center feel like a church. This was accomplished with the assistance of St. John’s United Methodist Church’s Music Director Catherine Stapleton Nance, and over forty members of the St. John’s Chancel Choir, and Dr. John Stapleton’s revision of “A Police Prayer” to pay tribute to our sister. The Convocation Center felt like a spiritual place that day as it was filled with over 1,000 public safety officers, law enforcement officers, firefighters, friends and families, as well as the Governor of South Carolina and many state, county, and city officials.
Soloists Jamie Turner and Diane Miniard, and fellow officer Daymon Spann uttered the right words. The pallbearers, Sandy’s shift mates, as well as the honorary pallbearers from the Aiken Department of Public Safety and representatives of law enforcement nationwide paid their respects with honor, pride, and professionalism. The City of Charleston Police Pipes and Drums, The North Carolina Troopers Association Caisson Unit, and the Patriot Guard Riders displayed dignity and respect in their tributes to Sandy. The staff at the USCA Convocation Center could not have been more cooperative, professional, and generous.
The funeral procession to Bethany Cemetery for Sandy’s last call was lined with so many of you, it is a sight we will never forget; and we pray we will never have to see again in our beloved Aiken community. We have in our memories the signs, the flags, the salutes and waves as you showed your respect for those who serve. The heart of the city was shut down for hours as the caisson and official vehicles carried our sister to her final resting place. Despite the detours and delays, not a complaint was uttered.
Sandy cared about Helping Hands, demonstrated by helping to start the Book Bag Program. She mentored many troubled individuals and children. In addition to the memorials made to St. John’s United Methodist Church and to the USCA Sprawls Nursing Scholarship Fund, we think Sandy would be grateful for hands and hearts extended to troubled youth.
Thank you to Aiken Printing and Howell Printing, you did beautiful work. The Aiken Standard was remarkable in their tributes, in photos and in words. To The Augusta Chronicle, The State newspaper, and all of the area television stations, your printed and spoken tributes treated our sister’s death with respect and compassion.
There are not enough words to express our appreciation. The large and loving family of Sandy Rogers hopes that you get some sense of how grateful we are. Our sister gave her life for all of us. She was aware that was always a possibility in the work that she chose. Thank you for all you have done and continue to do to honor her memory. I would like to extend a special thanks to Dee Taylor and Midge Rothrock for helping us find the words to express our gratitude to all who have shown their love and support.
Our sister was no saint. She was fun and she was feisty, and she loved a good time. Those of you that knew her best know what we are talking about. We want you to remember that Sandy too. The death of our baby sister will forever leave a big hole in our family. Now, let us remember the words she told her fellow officers when they turned to her for guidance when Scotty Richardson died, “We go on.” That is what she would tell us all, “We need to go on.”
— The Rogers Family