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Celebration of Life Service held for fallen officer

A Celebration of Life Service was held at 5 p.m. on August 14 to honor Colleton County Sheriff’s Office Deputy Dennis Compton who was killed in the line of duty just over four years ago, with the office’s Honor Guard present in full dress.

“I made a promise as the sheriff of this county after Dennis was killed that every year, a memorial service would be held in his honor,” said Sheriff George Malone. “The man gave his life in service to Colleton County, and the least we can do is to try not to forget this. “August 6, 2008 was my worst day during my tenure as the sheriff of Colleton County, and I wanted to ensure this service was done one last time before I leave office.”

“I sincerely hope that that the future sheriffs of our county will follow in the same footsteps,” Malone added.” He decided not to run for a third (?) term as sheriff in the upcoming November election.   

Compton, who was 39 years old, was shot with a shotgun on Aug. 6, 2008 and died at a residence on Sunflower Road near Smoaks when checking on a report concerning an activated burglar alarm.

An incident report stated that deputies “responded to the scene in reference to an officer that could not be raised on the radio. The officer/victim, Dennis Compton, had responded to the scene in reference to an alarm and shortly after his arrival, we heard what sounded like ‘help’ come across the radio.”

The report continued, “While en-route to the crime scene, the homeowner’s son,…. who was the key-holder at the residence, came across the radio and stated that he had found an officer at the residence that had been shot with a shotgun and was not breathing. I requested that he start CPR  on Deputy Compton and I arrived on the scene soon after.

The deputy reported, “Upon arrival, I found Deputy Compton under the carport of the residence with his gun and flashlight on the ground. I took over CPR until the medic unit arrived. Upon arrival of the medic unit, myself and (another deputy) began to clear the area. We observed that the side door to the residence was open and there was a red shotgun shell on the handicap ramp coming from the door. There was also a grey/clear buckshot round in the grass a few feet away from the ramp. We did observe five spent forty caliber rounds under the carport that appeared to have been fired from Deputy Compton’s weapon.”

The report concluded that the crime scene was secured and taped until the State Law Enforcement Division could arrive to take over the investigation. Two men were later charged with Compton’s murder. They were convicted and sentenced to life in prison.

During the service, Malone welcomed those attending. The opening prayer was conducted by Pastor Leon Maxwell of Saint Peters AME Church in Walterboro. Scripture was quoted from the New Testament of The Holy Bible by Pastor Vivian Lingard of Friendship United Methodist Church (UMC) near Bamberg and St. Luke UMC.

Colleton County Chaplain Zane Brown also spoke to those present at the service. He said, “I began my relationship with the Colleton County Sheriff’s Office in January of 1999 as a chaplain. I understood the dangers of law enforcement, but hoped and prayed that I would never get the kind of call that I received around 4 a.m. on August 6, 2008.”

“I picked up my cell phone, still groggy with sleep, and heard a familiar voice with an unfamiliar tone. On the other end of this conversation, one of the toughest and most honorable men I know was breathing heavily and was obviously weeping as he squeezed out the words ’They shot my cousin.’ And, for me, that was the beginning of the longest day of my life. Suddenly, we were all plunged into something that was new to most of us, Line of Duty Death (LODD).”

“I have never been prouder to be a part of a team than I was in the weeks that followed this tragedy. For six weeks, we were all one team, united in purpose and deeply caring for one another. Even the community rallied around us. And those of you who were here at the time did the most therapeutic thing a first responder can do at that point… you worked your butts off keeping the peace and finding those who chose to take the life of Dennis Compton. Multiple agencies rendered assistance and the fact of The Blue Circle became a reality for us.”

“I learned some things from Dennis’ death. I did some research and learned that, of the nearly 550 officers killed in the line of duty over the last 10 years, only 10 were rookie officers with less than a year on the job. The average LODD victims had 10 to 12 years. So, allow me a moment to offer you some encouragement.”

“First, don’t become complacent. Be diligent with your training. Be diligent with your exercise regimen. And be diligent with your senses. All the experience on the job is worthless if you let your guard down at the wrong time”

“Second, don’t think it can’t happen to you. I spend much of my time teaching and preaching that NO ONE is guaranteed tomorrow. James wrote, ‘What is your life? It is but a vapor, a wisp of smoke, here and gone in an instant.’ The Psalmist encourages us to ‘Count our days and make them count.’ Number our days so that we may gain a heart of wisdom, and that the heart of wisdom will tell us to never to take for granted those we love and the God we serve.”

“Heavenly Father, thank you for the life and service of Dennis Compton. He was such an encourager… a good friend, good father, good husband and a good law enforcement officer. Help us to learn from this loss and make the most of the time that You have allotted to us. I pray for each of these men and women. I pray that you would turn their hearts to You. Strengthen their resolve; strengthen their relationships, to stand against the restraints of the job. Strengthen their families and protect them from evil.”

The closing prayer was conducted by Pastor Leslie Bligen of Hopewell Presbyterian Church in Walterboro.