The narrative of Allen Jacobs’ life has become familiar in the time since he was shot and killed a year ago today while performing his duties as a Greenville Police officer.
Iraq war veteran. Dedicated police officer. Loving husband, father and son.
It was who he was.
Today, his widow says she finds herself struggling to mourn a different version of her husband — the one she and his children will never get to meet.
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It's taken a year for Meghan to be able to speak publicly, as she says she's been unable to put her pain into words.
"My life shattered the day I lost my husband, my favorite supporter, my hero and protector," she told The Greenville News the day before the anniversary of her 28-year-old husband's death. "I can't hear a siren without my stomach getting knots like I am hearing the sirens I heard the day he died."
Meanwhile, Jacobs' colleagues find themselves still trying to fill a void they say has been left behind.
"It's hard to believe a year has passed," said Greenville Police Sgt. Ed Irick, who supervised Jacobs as part of the department's community response team and was on the scene shortly after police say 17-year-old Deontea Mackey shot Jacobs during a foot chase in the Nicholtown community and then fatally shot himself. "It feels like yesterday."
Support for police overflowed following Jacobs' death, and so did a deeper conversation about how police and the community interact, Police Chief Ken Miller said.
In some ways, the department has changed the way it goes about doing its job, he said.
A number of changes — community policing, outreach programs, alterations to the city's citizens' public safety review process — were in the works already or stemmed from events that occurred nationwide, Miller said, but Jacobs' death put efforts into focus, such as the expansion of the department's "Cops on the Court" program into West Greenville and Nicholtown.
"We weren't sure which one we were going to do first," he said, "but certainly there was a drive and motivation on the part of our employees to try and help heal, I think internally and with the community, by connecting with Nicholtown first after this incident."
'Your worst nightmare'
Nicholtown is where two disparate lives collided on March 18, 2016.
Shortly after noon on that day, Jacobs and a partner stopped Mackey as he walked along Ackley Road not far from his home. They had received word that Mackey might have obtained a gun.
Unknown to Jacobs, the teen had already gotten one.
When pressed, Mackey ran away through backyards as Jacobs pursued.
Both were considerably athletic — Jacobs an accomplished Army paratrooper, Mackey a star youth football player.
About 20 seconds into the chase, Miller said, Mackey stopped behind a home and fired multiple shots at Jacobs, who a year earlier had been the arresting officer when Mackey took $10 from a man trying to buy crack in Nicholtown.
Mackey fled to a spur of the Swamp Rabbit Trail, where just a few years before he had been a leader in a youth cycling club and appeared to be on a promising path before police say he fell under the influence of gang culture.
Mackey shot himself on the trail after telling his mother over the phone that he had shot a police officer, Miller said.
Suddenly, the future that Meghan Jacobs said she had lived for was gone.
"It's not until you have to face your worst nightmare, a nightmare that shouldn't have happened, a nightmare that came so quick and unexpected, that it changes your entire world in an instant," Meghan told The News. "It's not until then that anyone could understand that this has been the hardest year of my life."
Meghan was pregnant with Jacobs' daughter, Lennox, who was born in July.
Immediately after the shooting, the community covered Jacobs' patrol car with flowers and mementos, and Meghan said the family received countless letters and offerings of support over the past year.
"She will never know what it's like to hold his hand," Meghan said. "He can't wipe her tears or walk her down the aisle on her wedding day. She will only know through pictures what her Daddy looks like. She will only learn by reading letters from his friends, the (police department) and our family who he really was."
Meghan said that Jacobs' two young sons, Michael and Dillon, knew their father, but will be without what he would have given them.
"Michael and Dillon won't have their Daddy to help with their homework," she said. "We all know I'm awful at math. He did that. They won't have their Daddy to play sports with or teach them about teamwork or right from wrong."
This week, Bob Jones University lined its center campus with "thin blue line" flags and hosted a memorial prayer breakfast with about 200 members of Upstate law enforcement to remember Jacobs and present a valor award in his honor.
Many of the officers who were on the scene the day Jacobs was shot were in attendance.
Greenville Police Sgt. Michael Yearout trained Jacobs. The two became friends and would enjoy debates over legal issues or the shortest route to get around town. Yearout was in the wedding when Allen and Meghan married in the Dominican Republic.
Today, he avoids driving through the area where Jacobs was shot and said he finds himself wanting to text his friend.
"I still, a year later, will think about sending that text," he said. "Then it will kind of hit me that I can't."
Yearout said he doesn't spend much time questioning why it all happened.
"I typically believe that everything happens for some reason," he said. "I don't know what it is."
The day of the shooting, Irick, Jacobs' supervisor, had just finished interviewing school resource officer candidates and was at lunch with three other officers from the unit when they heard the call that an officer had been shot.
For days afterward, Irick said, he tried to keep busy. Now, he said, he tries not to take for granted the dangers of the job.
"Having something like this happening, it brings that reality check back in," Irick said. "If it can happen to Allen, it can happen to anybody."
The protests that erupted in downtown Greenville over the summer following a series police-related shootings made dealing with the loss of Jacobs more difficult, Irick said.
"It was difficult to process and difficult to listen to as we were trying to heal from this event that happened only two or three months earlier," he said.
Still, he said he felt overwhelming community support.
The investigation into the shooting showed that Jacobs followed police procedure, and no substantive tactical changes have been made based on the circumstances of how it happened, Miller said.
"There weren't any policy changes from this," he said. "Everything checks out. It's a hazard of the job."
However, Miller said he has taken the opportunity to communicate with his officers the importance of connecting with the communities they police.
"We know that positive interactions with the police officers and the youth in our community are important," he said, "so that the youth see us as perhaps less mechanical and instead as people who are humans and people who care ... and for our police officers to see youth differently in the same respect, that they’re not just kids who are looking for trouble or hanging on a corner or somehow they’re a problem, but these are kids who have lives and aspirations in front of them, and they’re kids who need positive role models and are in search in of those role models and are eager to please."