The man who shot a Forest Acres police officer in the head, killing him, was sentenced Tuesday to life in prison without any chance of parole.
Jarvis Hall, 36, admitted his guilt in a Richland County courtroom in the slaying of Greg Alia, a new father who left a lasting impact on the community and the department where he worked for seven years.
Alia’s family and a large contingent of Forest Acres and Columbia police officers filled the courtroom during the 70-minute, emotionally charged plea and sentencing hearing.
Judge Steven John imposed the sentenced after hearing from Alia’s widow, father, mother and sisters. Hall’s plea avoids the possibility of a death-penalty case; cases involving police officer deaths are eligible.
Elder sister Christine Corbly told Hall that through the pain, she forgave him.
“If you hear nothing else I say here today, hear this: I forgive you, Jarvis Hall.” She repeated the word “forgive” twice more. “I pray you will come to know the peace that passes all understanding in Jesus Christ.”
Corbly recalled that on that deadly date, Sept. 30, 2015, two families lost sons; two children lost fathers; two families were destroyed.
She retold the events of police officers arriving at the family’s home and the initial disbelief about the news they delivered. Corbly called those minutes, “One last moment of denial. One last moment of life as we knew it.”
“I should hate you,” Corbly said, her voice often shaking as Hall stood before the judge. “But until a few days ago, I didn’t know your name. This feels so unnatural, so awkward. Trying to sum up Greg’s life in a few anecdotes.”
Kassy Alia, married to the officer for seven years, said she watches videos of her husband, who gave her “everything I could ever want.”
She recounted the last day Greg Alia, 32, walked out of their home to go to work. “He kissed my head, and he was gone.”
She mourned that their baby son, Sal, 6 months old at the time of the kiling, would never know his father. But the widow said she hopes Sal “never feels retribution and revenge. ... I want him to find love in his heart,” she said.
Kassy Alia said she has found peace by learning more about Hall and growing to love him.
“It’s too late for Greg. It’s too late for Mr. Hall. I hope it’s not too late for the world. I think my husband would find today’s resolution appropriate,” she said.
After the sentencing, Kassy Alia called for a halt to what she said is a rush to judgment in officer-involved shootings.
She asked the public to weigh the impact on all families that are damaged by such cases – including the relatives of suspects.
“What if we could have helped him,” she said of Hall, a Dreher High School graduate who had become homeless. “Would my husband still be here?
“This is an immense tragedy no matter how you look at it. There are no winners. Everyone lost today,” she said.
Hall, who his attorney described as “intelligent, calm, rational,” spoke briefly before the sentence was handed down.
Hall said he was touched by the Alia family’s words. He said he was sorry for killing Greg Alia.
“If I was in their shoes, I don’t think I could be as positive as you are,” Hall said.
Hall faces many additional years on the remaining charges to which he also pleaded guilty. Those include using a deadly weapon during a violent crime, having a stolen pistol and a stolen vehicle, resisting arrest and related charges in Lexington County where, a prosecutor said, he stole the vehicle he drove that day to Richland Mall and got from the vehicle two shotguns and the .40-caliber Glock. It’s the gun Hall used to shoot Alia in the back of the head, according to prosecutors.
Alia’s parents told the court that he once paid from his own pocket to put a homeless person into a motel room for the night. He escorted elderly residents from their homes. He even danced down the street to bring a little joy to people.
Alia apparently turned to policing after realizing the motion picture business was not for him.
The officer worked on two movies while exploring show business as a career, his mother, Alexis, said.
Alia was one of three officers who answered a report of a suspicious person in the parking lot of the mall, at Forest Drive and Beltline Boulevard, just before 8 a.m. Deputy solicitor Dan Goldberg told the judge Tuesday that Hall was sitting on a bench looking at his phone when they approached him because he fit the description provided by a Bank of America employee.
“Come on, not today,” Goldberg said, quoting Hall’s words. Hall then ran into the mall and into a service hallway.
Alia had run past another officer, Curtis Singleton, who also was chasing Hall. Singleton saw Hall shoot Alia, Goldberg said. Singleton dove on top of Hall and struggled to arrest him, including using a stun gun.
“Kill me now,” Hall told the officers, according to Goldberg’s recounting in court. “Just shoot me. Just shoot me.”
Staff writer Sarah Ellis contributed.
Remembering Greg Alia
After her husband’s death, Kassy Alia started a charitable organization called “Heroes in Blue,” which has internet sites dedicated to stories of police officers doing good works.
A year after his death, the intersection of Forest Drive and Beltline Boulevard, just yards from where Alia was shot to death, was named the Officer Gregory Thomas Alia Intersection.
At the sign’s dedication, Alia’s father, Richard Alia, spoke. “You’ve turned my son, who was just our little boy, into a hero,” he told assembled community members. “We never thought of him that way, but you’ve made him into a hero.”