Originally created 09/20/96

500 remember DSS caseworker at service



NORTH AUGUSTA - Michael Gregory was laid to rest on Thursday surrounded by family - his own and the extended one of friends and colleagues from the Department of Social Services.

About 500 people filled the pews of First Baptist Church of Belvedere for the private church service. It was the first of three funerals for DSS caseworkers shot to death Monday at the agency's North Augusta office.

"He was like a part of our family and whenever we needed him, he was there," said Angela Johns as she and her fiance Robert Pounds went into the church. She said Mr. Gregory, 30, was her caseworker.

Mr. Pounds called the slain social worker a loving and caring person and one of the finest human beings he's known.

Services are scheduled for James Riddle, 52, today and Josie Curry, 35, on Saturday.

On Tuesday, a memorial service will be held for all three caseworkers at 1 p.m. at the First Baptist Church in North Augusta. Gov. David Beasley is expected to attend.

"The (funerals) are all going to be tough," said Jerry Adams, spokesman for the state DSS office in Columbia. "These are real young people."

Police say the caseworkers were shot in the head by David Mark Hill, 36, of North Augusta, who walked into the DSS office with a semi-automatic handgun, demanding to find his family's caseworker.

Mr. Hill shot himself in the mouth on Tuesday and is in critical condition at the Medical College of Georgia Hospital. Warrants have been issued against Mr. Hill for three counts of murder, one count of kidnapping and one count of assault and battery with intent to kill.

Police say Mr. Hill will have to be extradited from Georgia to South Carolina to face the charges.

Reflecting on the senselessness of what happened, Mr. Pounds said it's clear the DSS office needed better security.

"They should have had windows up that were thick ... They should have had corridors with doors that open and close by remote control," he said.

State DSS officials have said a review will be done of security measures. But one day after saying the emotional toll on caseworkers made it doubtful the North Augusta office would reopen, Mr. Adams said that option is being reconsidered.

"I don't think people want to be run off by a man with a gun," he said.

Aiken County DSS Director Margaret Key and members of her staff met Thursday with the owners of the Business and Technology Center, where the North Augusta office is located, the DSS spokesman said.

"What we're talking about now is how to use the space," Mr. Adams said. "Changes will be made but we want to memorialize Mike and Josie and Jim so their service and social work can be the focus of how we do business."

In the meantime, the office will remain closed indefinitely, he said.