One year after he was shot and killed in the line of duty, an Aiken Public Safety officer is being remembered by his friends and fellow officers as a family man who was dedicated to his work and his community.
Master Public Safety Officer Scotty Richardson was shot during a routine traffic stop on Brandt Court the evening of Dec. 20, 2011. He died early Dec. 21 at Georgia Health Sciences University in Augusta at the age of 33.
“Scotty was a rock star,” said Sgt. Jake Mahoney, of Aiken Public Safety. “You couldn’t be around Scotty and not be drawn to him, and you couldn’t not like him. He had a great personality, a very humble demeanor.”
Richardson began his 12-year career with the department in 1999 as a cadet, then worked his way up to a driver operator on a fire truck and became an officer in 2005.
Mahoney said Richardson left Aiken for a short time and went to Florida, where he met his wife Amelyn.
“He was drawn back to Aiken – those family ties,” Mahoney said. “Scotty was an Aiken boy.”
Richardson, his wife and their three young boys lived in Lexington, and he commuted to work each day.
“He could have easily taken a job up there, he could have found a job with another agency, but he was committed to this department and this community,” Mahoney said. “He chose this career and this line of work because he loved helping others.”
According to Mahoney, it was what people couldn’t say about Richardson that actually said the most about him.
“I never heard anyone say anything bad about Scotty, and you can’t say that about everybody,” he said. “Of all the years that I knew him, nobody ever said ‘Scotty’s a jerk.’ He just wasn’t that kind of guy – it just didn’t happen.”
Richardson was the first Aiken Public Safety officer killed in the line of duty since 1950.
Stephon Carter, 20, has been charged with his murder and remains incarcerated at the Aiken County detention center. Carter is also charged with the attempted murder of Officer Travis Griffin, who also responded to the traffic stop on the night of the shooting. Griffin was shot in the chest, but his bullet-proof vest prevented serious injury.
Barely a month later, the community and department were dealt another devastating blow when Master Cpl. Sandy Rogers was shot and killed while responding to a call about suspicious vehicle in Eustis Park on Jan. 28. Her accused killer remains in jail.
Pictures of the slain officers stand inside Hopelands Gardens, fixed against trees of glowing blue lights erected in memory of them, their smiling faces gazing out at passersby taking part in Christmas at Hopelands.
Those same photos hang on a wall inside the All American Barber Shop on Pine Log Road. Barber Chris Hagan had known Richardson since he was 3 years old.
“His brother and I were very good friends,” Hagan recalled on Thursday. “I watched him grow up.”
Richardson’s parents ran a floral shop in Aiken, and Hagan said they were “family friends.” He recalled helping Richardson with deliveries on Valentines Day when he was in high school.
“He was a huge family man,” Hagan said. “He loved his job, he loved Aiken. He was a very good Public Safety officer and very dedicated to his job and his community.”
One year later, Hagan remembers the shock of learning that an officer had been shot.
“We cut probably 75 percent of the Public Safety officers’ hair in this barber shop,” he said. “My first thought was, who is it? Which one is it? I started calling the ones I know very well, and then, finally...”
His voice trailed off.
“I never dreamed it’d be Scotty,” he said. “It was just shock and disgust that something like that would happen.”
Hagan was also shocked “because that’s just not supposed to happen in Aiken. It’s a small community, a small-town feel.”
Hagan remains close with Richardson’s family, and said Amelyn Richardson brings their children to the barber shop once a month for haircuts.
“The community’s pulling together and has been there for the family,” he said, adding that the same tremendous support has been shown to local law enforcement.
“I don’t think Aiken will ever be the same as it was before – it’s a different place now,” he said. “We’ve done pretty good, the community’s come together after this and stuck together. I think in the long run it’ll make the community stronger.
“Time heals all wounds, I guess. We’ve just got to keep going.”
Teddy Kulmala covers the crime beat for the Aiken Standard. He is a graduate of Clemson University and hails from Williston.