Many words described Columbia officer Stacy Case at her memorial service Tuesday afternoon. But what spoke louder than words were the actions of those gathered to remember her.
They called her patriotic. They called her dedicated. They sat with heads bowed by her flag-draped coffin.
“I want you to know with certainty – with absolute certainty – that your daughter, your sister, did you proud,” Columbia Police Chief Skip Holbrook told Case’s assembled family.
Hundreds of fellow officers from across South Carolina – as well as some from outside the state – gathered with Case’s friends and family at Township Auditorium on the eve of Veterans Day to mourn the officer killed in a wreck Saturday night. Just under a thousand people packed the building for the service.
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Case’s parents, Ronald Gene Potts Sr. and Josephine Case Potts, traveled from Michigan for the service, along with two of the officer’s three brothers and their wives. The third brother was unable to attend.
When Case’s family arrived at the airport in Charlotte, her entire squad – the North Region’s A Squad – met them and accompanied them to Columbia.
“They had an opportunity from that drive between Charlotte and Columbia to spend time with her squad members, which was who she was closest with,” Holbrook said. “That really started the healing for everybody.”
Case was eager to improve herself and the department, he said. Before she was hired by the city in 2011, she was in the Army for 15 years.
“Recently, there has been much discussion about whether police officers should serve with the mindset and actions of a guardian or a warrior,” Holbrook said. “I say the perfect officer is the one that can do both. Officer Case performed her duties as a Columbia police officer with the mindset of a guardian and the skill set of a warrior. She was a peacemaker. She was a defender of her country and a defender of the city of Columbia.”
Case did not come from a police or military family background but chose of her own accord to enter the service, according to Holbrook.
Case’s unit number, 115, will be retired permanently from the Police Department. At the end of the service, the department made one last dispatch to Unit 115.
“Thank you for your service, Officer Case,” the dispatcher said. “You will never be forgotten. Rest in peace. Your brothers and sisters will take the watch.”
Henry Ford, who served with Case on her squad at the Police Department, described her as “no-nonsense” but “funny.”
“(She had) a sense of humor that can definitely take over the room,” he said.
In the wake of Case’s death, the Richland County Sheriff’s Department responded to calls on the Police Department’s behalf, through late Tuesday afternoon, Sheriff Leon Lott said.
Case will be flown back to Michigan for burial, Holbrook said. A service there had not yet been set as of Tuesday.
Case was killed late Saturday while responding to a shooting in the Vista. Her vehicle collided with one driven by a University of South Carolina officer who was responding to the same call. That officer was hospitalized with non-life-threatening injuries.
Glen Luke Flanagan: 803-771-8305, @glenlflanagan