Crime & Courts

Forest Acres police officer Greg Alia remembered as upstanding man, father

The Forest Acres police officer shot and killed Wednesday morning was remembered by family and friends as a patient, caring man and an outstanding father.

Greg Alia, 32, was fatally shot just before 8 a.m. Wednesday during a struggle with a suspect inside Richland Mall.

A seven-year veteran of the Forest Acres Police Department, Greg Alia had a “heart of gold” and embodied everything good about law enforcement, said Kassy Alia, his wife of nearly four years.

Kassy lived with Greg and their 6-month-old son, Sal, in the Forest Acres area. His parents live not far away. Kassy said her husband loved law enforcement for “the right reasons.”

“He felt it was his place and his role to be in that position,” Kassy Alia said. “He was loyal. He was fair. He was forgiving. He was everything that you could ask for in a person.”

But law enforcement wasn’t her husband’s only interest. Kassy Alia said he had another love when he graduated the University of South Carolina in 2006: media.

Greg Alia moved to California for about nine months after graduation to work on movie sets, said his mother, Alexis Alia.

Kassy Alia said Greg Alia worked on the production of Iron Man and Indiana Jones movies and was even offered a job with Marvel Comics but that he instead returned home to Forest Acres because he felt a calling to work in law enforcement.

“We hear a lot of negative things about police officers in the news,” Kassy Alia said. “Greg embodies everything that’s positive and hopeful about the heroes who fight for us every day.”

Kassy Alia recalled a time she saw Greg Alia “donning his cape” off duty. They were eating lunch with her parents on a pavilion in Virginia when Greg Alia spotted three young boys bullying another one.

“Before we even knew what had happened, he had already stepped in and intervened,” Kassy Alia said. “He never hesitated to do the right thing.”

Kassy Alia said she used to worry about her husband when he was on duty because he didn’t text or call her but that she grew used to his level of commitment to the job.

“He was so committed to his work that he was very professional,” she said. “When he was on the job, when he was busy, he wasn’t texting me, he wasn’t calling me. He was doing his job.”

Greg Alia’s mother said her son was even more passionate about his wife and son, Sal.

Kassy Alia said she met her future husband at a bar in Five Points in the summer of 2008, after he returned from California. She left that night before he had a chance to ask for her phone number.

But the two ran into each other the next day in a Publix produce section. He called later that night, and they went on their first date the next Tuesday, Kassy Alia said.

“I don’t know if I believe in destiny, but I believe that we were made for each other, and no matter what was going to happen, he was going to enter my life,” Kassy Alia said.

The two were married in December 2011 in Savannah, Ga. Sal was born in March.

Greg Alia took six weeks off when Sal was born, even starting a “baby beard blog” in which he grew a beard – something the police force doesn’t allow on-duty officers to do – and posted daily pictures with his son, Kassy Alia said.

“He was so patient with Sal, always wanted to help him figure things out, always wanted to help him with what he was doing,” Kassy Alia said.

Greg Alia, who graduated from Richland Northeast High School in 2001, was an Eagle Scout who was “always a lot of fun,” his mother said.

“Everybody loved him,” Alexis Alia said. “He was the kind of young man that people gravitated to.”

Several of Greg Alia’s friends who were in USC’s Phi Sigma Kappa fraternity with him quickly set up a GoFundMe page in his honor Wednesday. Within four hours, the page had garnered more than 1,000 donations topping $50,000.

Kassy Alia said U.S. Sen. Tim Scott called her to say he would soon seek a Senate resolution honoring her husband and his service.

USC President Harris Pastides tweeted, “We mourn a brave @UofSC Gamecock today. Our thoughts and prayers are with the Alia family and the Forest Acres Police Dept. #sacrifice #hero

Dan Witcher and Ryan Herald, two of Greg Alia’s friends and fraternity brothers, said he loved to play video games and watch movies when he wasn’t on duty. They said they had planned to hang out with him this weekend.

“It was going to be nice to be together again,” Herald said.

Kassy Alia said she knows the future will bring plenty of emotions. But for now, she is overwhelmed with pride in her husband.

“Right now, I don’t feel any regret,” she said. “I feel pride because I know that this is what Greg wanted. He wanted to serve, he wanted to protect, and he wouldn’t have it any other way.”

Staff writers Harrison Cahill and Jane Moon Dail contributed to this story.