Scroll to bottom of this story for video from the vigil
After officer Scotty Richardson’s death, the brass at the Aiken Public Safety Department probably hoped the public wouldn't be holding candles outside their headquarters on Laurens Street again.
But at a vigil Tuesday night, that's exactly what happened. Dozens of police officers, city officials and workers, friends and community members all stood around the department's sign to mourn the death of Master Cpl. Sandra Rogers, who died Saturday in the line of duty, just two days before celebrating her 29th anniversary with the department. She was shot and killed while investigating a suspicious vehicle at an area park. Her funeral is today.
"Again we’re here to support a fallen one," said Aiken resident Lynne Tollison. "Again we’re coming together to show we’re a community that loves each other and we’re coming together to show that we love all our officers."
Tollison led the ceremony. She told the gathering about how, just a month prior, she met Rogers at the vigil for Robinson. She shook her hand and thanked her along with the other Public Safety officers. She didn’t expect to be in the same spot again.
“I shook her hand just like all the others,” she said. “Never in a million years did I expect to be standing here thanking you guys for being here because of her.”
Area pastor the Rev. David Lester, offered words of comfort reminded the audience that Rogers was a committed police officer.
"Sandy wrote a blank check to the city of Aiken for an amount up to and including her life," he said.
Local and state politicians also expressed their remorse at the event. Aiken Mayor Fred Cavanaugh read the audience a proclamation declaring Wednesday Sandra Rogers day, using candlelight to make out all the words as the sun fell from the sky. Rep. Bill Taylor (R-Aiken), drove down from Columbia, bringing words of condolences from Gov. Nikki Haley.
"Sandy gave her all for this community," Taylor said. "...She loved this community."
Others came to share their memories of Rogers. Tracy Thomas told the crowd Rogers responded to a call when a friend’s pocketbook was stolen from her car not long after she moved to Aiken from New York City. Thomas said she was puzzled and amazed to see Rogers put real effort into the investigation.
"She came, doing her job, taking footprints in fingerprints," she said. "I said ‘They don’t do this in New York City ."
Celestine Carter Simpkins said she was at work when she found out about Rogers’ shooting and couldn’t believe her friend died. The two ran track together in high school together she said, and stayed close after graduating in 1981. Simpkins said her family will always remember a gift Rogers gave her son.
“She brought him his first NFL jacket,” she said. “She brought him a Dallas Cowboys jacket.”
Longtime friend Jamie Turner recalled how she and Rogers would get together and eat and laugh. She said that her daughter was so close to the fallen officer that she would call her "Aunt Sandy."
"The hardest thing I've had to do is tell my daughter that she wouldn't have Aunt Sandy to play with anymore," she said.
Video: Sandy Rogers vigil
Video by R. Darren Price