The officers, wearing their dress uniforms, solemnly stood by as the body of Deputy Roger Rice, 29, was laid to rest for the final time in the cemetery of Laurens First Baptist Church.
The attendance by the Pickens County officers was a show of respect for Rice — not for any special heroics he has accomplished. It was because he, like the officers themselves, accepted a very dangerous duty in protecting the public from unsavory characters.
Rice paid the ultimate price, as he assisted in the capture of 39-year-old Benny Brown, accused of killing his girlfriend, 38-year-old Nicole Kingsworth.
Rice, 29, leaves behind a wife and two children.
“We may have had more officers there,” said Assistant Sheriff Tim Morgan. “Some may have went on their own time.”
Morgan said the officers wanted to be there to show support for their fallen comrade.
“We understand what that family is going through,” Morgan said. “Perhaps because we realize that our own family could someday face the same situation.”
Morgan said that the Federal Bureau of Investigation sends to the Pickens County Sheriff’s office daily updates on officers who have fallen on the job.
“We look at every one of them during roll call each day,” Morgan said. “We’re hoping we can pick up something that will keep us from being in the same situation.”
Morgan said it helps to have others who have faced the same situation to offer comfort in such circumstances.
“The only thing I can think of to compare it to how somebody who has lost a child really understands the kind of grief somebody goes through when they lose a child.”
Morgan said that while he tells his officers to be careful in dangerous situations, but that doesn’t cover all of the danger zones.
“Some of the mundane calls that you go on, perhaps checking out somebody who has notice somebody suspicious on their property, can be as dangerous as any you’re going to encounter.”
Morgan said that many tragic deaths of cops happen here in the South.
“You’d think it would be more common in urban areas, such as New York City,” Morgan said. “But the southern states always seem to have more than their share of them.”
Morgan said an officer has to be careful, but cannot let concerns for his own safety override his duty.
“There’s a fine line between being careful and neglecting your duty,” Morgan said. “You cannot approach a motorist and assume he is packing a weapon.
Morgan said that is one reason why being a law enforcement office is such a difficult job.
“Ninety-nine and a half percent of the people we deal with are good, hard-working, honest people,” Morgan said. “But you have to always be prepared for tha tother half percent.”