It only deepens the sadness to know that the man who senselessly shot and killed a Richmond County deputy this past weekend has Columbia County ties.
Christopher Michael Hodges, 26, was a 2004 graduate of Evans High School. A National Guardsman based at Fort Gordon, Hodges shot and killed Richmond County Sheriff’s Deputy J.D. Paugh, who at the time was acting more as a good Samaritan than as a cop.
Sheriff Ronnie Strength got it exactly right when he said “we never know,” describing situations that deputies encounter every day. Paugh, on his way home from working at the fair, probably thought he was just checking on a broken-down auto.
He likely didn’t know he was riding up on an intoxicated soldier armed with an assault rifle and his terrorized girlfriend, pulled off in the weeds on Bobby Jones Expressway just after 1 o’clock in the morning.
Now a highly regarded law enforcement officer is dead, as is the soldier who shot himself after killing Paugh. Just like that, two people who are expected to stand at the front lines are gone, victims of an internal and unforeseen enemy.
Even without the direct link to Columbia County, however, this horrific incident is one that should grieve – and anger – every citizen in our community. And it should remind all of us of the everyday heroism of those who put on a uniform to protect us, often never knowing if they’ll return home at the end of the day.
J.D. Paugh didn’t. May he rest in peace.