COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - A Sumter police officer who previously worked for the Florence Police Department couldn’t believe what he was hearing upon finding the seven law enforcement officers shot in last Wednesday’s ambush were his friends.
“I know every single one of them,” Corporal Thomas West said.
West worked for the Florence Police Department for 10 years before taking a job with the Sumter Police Department for personal reasons. During that time, he got to know fellow officers Brian Hart, Travis Scott, Scott Williamson, and Sergeant Terrence Carraway.
Hart, Scott, and Williamson were all injured in the shooting and are recovering. Carraway, 52, was killed.
West said the city often assisted county deputies through the mutual aid agreement the two agencies shared and he got to know Deputy Arie Davis, FCSO Investigator Sarah Miller and Investigator Farrah Turner who were all shot and continue to recover from their injuries.
“Like I said, I knew everybody when I was here,” Cpl. West said. “I got phone calls from friends, I got a bunch of friends that work there and they said did you hear about this, did you hear about this…then nothing was confirmed but all the names they were giving were all the people I knew and the people they knew and it was just devastating and all I could do was hope and pray some of the stuff I was hearing wasn’t true.”
West said anytime a law enforcement officer is killed in the line of duty it is a tragedy. Being able to put a face and a personality to a name makes it incredibly more difficult, he said.
“We all think about it each day we go out,” he said. “But you kind of put it on the back burner and think it can’t happen to you, or your friends or family. Unfortunately, it can.”
During his time at the department, Sgt. Carraway was West’s boss.
“He always made sure all of his officers were happy and doing well,” he said. “I remember I had rotator cuff surgery and he always checked in on me every day. His son was also going through the same surgery so we would compare how each of us was recovering. I’ll always remember him checking in on me.”
The Columbia Police Department was one of dozens of law enforcement agencies in attendance on Monday to pay their final respects to Sgt. Carraway during the public visitation and funeral service.
In 2015, the department lost one of its own in the line of duty. Officer Stacy Case was killed when the squad car she was driving collided with a University of South Carolina patrol car. She was responding to a shots fired call which investigators later determined to be a suicide.
“It’s important we support each other and the families,” Cpt. Chris Roberts said. “We were in that situation not too long ago when we lost Officer Case and they came out and supported us, so it’s very important we support each other in times like this.”
Kassy Alia, who lost her husband, a Forest Acres police officer in 2015, also attended Monday’s service. Since her husband’s passing, she founded Serve and Connect, a non-profit aimed at facilitating police and community partnerships. She said the outpouring of community support ahead of Sgt. Carraway’s funeral has a lasting impact on a grieving family.
“It shows to that family that their service and sacrifice is honored,” she said. “I remember at my husband’s funeral just looking behind to see a sea of blue lights and I don’t think at the time I could process at that time what it meant but I knew it meant love and it helped my heart at the most difficult time.”
Serve and Connect has facilitated a fundraising campaign for the family of Sgt. Carraway and the other officers and deputies injured in the shooting. As of Monday evening, more than $41,000 has been raised for the Carraway family and around $20,000 has been raised for those still recovering from their injuries.
Fred Hopkins, 74, is charged with Carraway’s murder and six counts of attempted murder. His son, Seth Hopkins, 28, is charged with criminal sexual conduct with a minor. Both were denied bond on Friday.
Investigators said deputies were planning to execute a search warrant and speak with Seth Hopkins when they were ambushed and shot by his father. Investigators also said it was an arranged meeting and the two men knew deputies were coming to their home.