The Columbia police officer killed in a crash Saturday night near the Vista was an Iraq War veteran who worked one of the department’s most difficult beats.
Stacy L. Case, 37, joined the Police Department in September 2011. She started as a patrol officer in the city’s east region, then moved to the Community Service Division as a community officer and crime prevention officer, said Chief Skip Holbrook. Her last assignment was in Columbia’s north region.
“She was extremely respected,” Holbrook said. “She worked in one of our most difficult regions to police. It’s a very busy region. She walked into the door with just enormous respect, being a seasoned combat veteran, a military police officer. She led by example.”
When a call reporting shots fired at Lincoln and Gervais streets was received Saturday night, Case responded because she was nearby. Richland County Coroner Gary Watts said first responders found a victim who died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound.
Before Case could arrive, however, her cruiser collided with another police vehicle also responding to the shooting incident. Case died from injuries sustained in that crash, at the intersection of College and Park streets, at about 10:17 p.m. Saturday.
Case and the other driver involved — a University of South Carolina police officer — both were taken to Palmetto Health Richland by ambulance. The USC officer, Sgt. Allan Bolin, was in stable condition with non-life-threatening injuries, according to university spokesman Wes Hickman.
“Our thoughts and prayers are with the families of both officers as we wish Sgt. Bolin a rapid recovery and extend our heartfelt condolences to the family of Officer Case and the Columbia Police Department,” Hickman wrote in an email. “Her loss is truly a blow to our community.”
Before joining the Police Department, Case was in the Army for 15 years. She received several awards, including the Iraq Campaign Medal with two campaign stars, the National Defense Service Medal, the Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary Award, the Army Commendation Medal, the Army Achievement Medal, Meritorious Unit Commendation and a Good Conduct Award.
Case recently had completed her bachelor’s degree in criminal justice from Limestone College, according to the Police Department. Holbrook described her as “inspiring” and said she always was eager to improve professionally. ”She was very inquisitive about her future opportunities with the Police Department,” he said.
Case originally was from Michigan, where her parents live. She has two brothers, currently on their way to Columbia in the wake of her death.
Though details still are undetermined, Holbrook said the Police Department wants to have a memorial service for Case with her family, then escort her back home. Anyone wishing to donate to Case and her family can do so to the Columbia Police Department Foundation, specifying that their contribution should be earmarked for Case.
Holbrook said the Columbia law enforcement community has been shaken by the crash and other recent events, including last month’s flooding and the shooting death of Forest Acres police officer Greg Alia.
“Expect us to persevere and draw strength from one another,” he said. “We’ll grieve together, and we’ll get through this. It’s what we do, and this is just a tragedy beyond words.”
Columbia City Manager Teresa Wilson directed all city of Columbia flags to fly at half-staff in honor of Case, starting Monday. “The impact on the Columbia Police Department and the city of Columbia has been severe, and we ask for your support during this difficult time,” Wilson said. “As a city family, we will look to one another for solace and strength. Our officers are saddened by this loss, but they are resilient and dedicated. Chaplains have been assisting staff and will continue to provide their services as needed.”
Though determined to persevere, Case’s brothers and sisters at the Police Department know it won’t be easy.
“It’s difficult,” Holbrook said. “I would be less than honest if I said otherwise. When you put your life on the line, and put your life in the hands of a fellow officer day in and day out, there’s a bond that exists that’s really indescribable. She’s very close to members of her squad. But you don’t have to know somebody personally — we all share a bond when we put this badge on.”