EDGEFIELD, S.C. - Sheriff Billy Parker had the difficult duty Wednesday of telling his deputies that one of their own was dead after a man suspected of drunken driving crashed into his cruiser.
"I've been here over 30 years, and this is the first time something like this has happened," the sheriff said. "We're all just walking around in shock."
Deputy Allen "Pete" Myers, 29, died in a traffic accident at 8:50 p.m. Tuesday on South Carolina Highway 23 just east of Ridge Spring in Saluda County. The deputy was taking a juvenile to the Department of Juvenile Justice in Columbia when a Ford van driven by Alejandro Perez, 42, of Monetta, crossed the center line and struck the officer's patrol car, South Carolina Highway Patrol Lance Cpl. Jeff Daniels said.
The deputy's car overturned several times and landed in a peach orchard. He and the juvenile passenger were wearing seat belts, but Deputy Myers was pronounced dead at the scene, the lance corporal said.
Mr. Perez and the juvenile were taken to Palmetto-Richland Memorial Hospital in Columbia, where they were treated for minor injuries and released, officials said.
Charges are pending against Mr. Perez, whom police suspect had been drinking, Lance Cpl. Daniels said.
Narcotics agent Mike Goodman went to Deputy Myers' home Tuesday night to console his wife, Sheila, and the couple's 11-month-old son, Allen Joseph.
"She was hysterical," Agent Goodman said.
Deputy Myers had lived with his family in Saluda County, where his wife works for the county school system as a public relations executive. He began his law enforcement career with the Saluda County Sheriff's Office in 1997, then took a job as a deputy with the Edgefield County Sheriff's Office last October. He worked the road patrol on the evening shift.
Shocked by his death, fellow officers recalled his life Wednesday.
"Pete always had something positive to say to everyone, and he loved kids. He always carried photos of his son in his patrol car," Agent Goodman said.
"Deputy Myers was an excellent officer," said Deputy Chris Aston, who had worked with the young officer in Saluda and Edgefield. "He was always bright and cheerful, and he never had anything negative to say. He was a good, Christian family man."
Sgt. Randy Doran spent Wednesday mourning the loss of his partner. He had worked the evening shift with Deputy Myers for nearly a year.
"He will be deeply missed," the sergeant said. "Pete was a good partner who was always there when you needed him."
"He was a very good officer who was always polite and professional," said Capt. Beverly Shields, who said she was still numb from shock. "Pete always looked at every situation with a positive attitude. This is a great loss to the Edgefield County Sheriff's Office."
Sheriff's officials are setting up a trust fund for Deputy Myers' son. Donations in Deputy Myers' name may be mailed or dropped off at Regions Bank, 201 Columbia Road, Edgefield, SC 29824.
No funeral arrangements have been announced.