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Widow of slain Forest Acres officer returns to crime scene with a new purpose

By March 19, 2018March 25th, 2018No Comments

By Jeff Wilkinson

For only the second time since her husband, Greg Alia, a 32-year-old Forest Acres police officer, was murdered in 2015, his widow, Kassy, returned Monday to the scene of the crime, Richland Mall

There, among the empty storefronts of the struggling shopping center, she announced a new initiative to the Heroes in Blue initiative she founded, which sought to honor officers in ways big and small for their service.

Among a gathering of police officers, volunteers, social workers, politicians and curious shoppers, Alia unveiled Serve & Connect, an expanded organization intended to foster better relations between police and the communities they serve.

“Heroes in Blue was created to highlight the outstanding acts of service (by police) that happen everyday and sometimes went unnoticed,” she said. “But if we want to end divisiveness, it’s going to take more than that.”

Greg Alia was shot and killed Sept. 30, 2015, after three officers responded to a report of a suspicious person just before 8 a.m. in the parking lot of the mall, located at Forest Drive and Beltline Boulevard.

When Alia and two other officers arrived, they located a man inside a van and attempted to talk with him. The man fled on foot into the mall through the Barnes & Noble bookstore.

Alia chased him into the mall and struggled with him. The suspect pulled out a handgun and shot Alia.

Alia’s death stunned the Columbia area and the Forest Acres police department. It had been more than four decades since a Forest Acres officer was last shot and killed on duty.

Jarvis Hall, 34 at the time, was arrested and later pleaded guilty. He was sentenced to life without parole.

On Monday, just steps from where her husband was killed, Kassy Alia announced the new program, not only for her husband, but for Hall as well. She termed the location “symbolic.”

“I know what heartbreak feels like,” she said. “I know what loss feels like. I’m not asleep to the realities that can happen in this world. But I’ve also seen what can happen when we promote healing.”

In a video produced for the event, Alia wondered: “What if we were able to help (Hall) before he got to that point.”

Alia was joined at the event by Alana Simmons, founder of the Hate Won’t Win organization. Simmons formed the group after her grandfather, the Rev. Daniel Simmons, who was one of nine members of the Emanuel AME Church in Charleston killed by self-proclaimed white supremacist Dylann Roof, of Hopkins.

“I understand better than most the heart it takes to do this kind of work daily,” she said of Kassy Alia’s efforts.

“Hate is something that is very much still alive, and if we want to stop it, we have to deal with it,” she said.

The mission of Serve & Connect is to narrow the divide between police and the communities they serve through programs such as Greg’s Groceries.

Greg’s Groceries, created by Heroes In Blue in conjunction with Harvest Hope Food Bank, provides patrolling police officers with boxes of food that they can distribute to those in need.

Serve & Connect also will support programs like the United Way’s SC 2-1-1 initiative and the Midlands Fatherhood Coalition.

Also joining Alia at the event was Jackie Swindler, director of the S.C. Criminal Justice Academy, and Ryan Alphin, executive director of the S.C. Police Chiefs Association.

“Out of tragedy grew hope,” Alphin said. “When police and the community work together, life is better.”

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