Nobody has followed Tuesday’s shooting of a Charlotte police officer in Fort Mill any closer than a 35-year-old husband and father named Brandon Rollins.
In November 2011, Rollins was shot by a drug-addicted felon who was trying to rob a Lancaster restaurant while Rollins and three other undercover agents with the Lancaster County Sheriff’s Office drug task force were sitting down for their dinner break.
Today, Rollins shakes his arm and it rattles, because the bullet that first hit his chest and ricocheted off a rib before ending up in his arm is still there.
“It is a constant reminder about what happened,” said Rollins, now a lieutenant in the Sheriff’s Office training division. “Kind of like a baby’s rattle. I shake my arm and hear what could have killed me.”
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Officer Shane Page, part of a Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department team that finds and arrests violent criminals, took a bullet to the hip and another to the shoulder while trying to serve an arrest warrant Tuesday in Fort Mill. He is expected to recover.
The man who police say shot Page was shot in the legs and also is expected to recover. He soon will face an armload of criminal charges that could include attempted murder of a police officer.
The people who catch the most violent criminals, like Rollins did for 10 years, know each other.
“I knew the name when I heard it, and I am already praying for Officer Page,” Rollins said.
And despite spending days in the hospital fighting for his life and hoping he would see his wife and kids again, Rollins came back to work in 2012 – just two months after his recovery.
“I struggled with it, and I thought I was being selfish wanting to come back and even asked myself why do I do it,” Rollins said. “But I got into this job to make a difference for people. It sounds like a cliche, but it is true. I want to help people.”
Rodrick Caskey, the 19-year-old crack-addicted, gun-toting felon who shot Rollins at the Shrimp Boat in Lancaster in 2011, pleaded guilty in April to attempted murder and was sentenced to 30 years in prison.
Rollins has received national awards for the valor he showed while protecting the restaurant’s employees and customers. He also has received awards from other police who train officers for such life-and-death shootouts.
Instead of resting on his laurels, he still works every day to protect the public, only now he helps train other officers to make sure they are ready for each traffic stop, each arrest.
“It is part of the job that so many of the people we deal with in law enforcement are armed and dangerous,” Rollins said. “Many times, they don’t want to go to jail.”
People like Brandon Rollins take bullets and do not quit.
Tuesday’s shooting happened so close to other homes. Kids trying to walk to their school bus stop saw the police cars surrounding the house. In that house, police say, convicted felon James William Lewis, 31, of Charlotte, who has been mixed up with drugs since he was 17, did not want to go to jail.
Instead of surrendering peacefully, police say, Lewis shot Page twice.
“I remember being wheeled into the hospital after getting off the helicopter when I got shot,” Rollins said. “Right there was an officer from Charlotte who told me, ‘We are right here for you, brother.’ I had visitors in law enforcement from all over and cards and well-wishes.”
Rollins is proud of Page and all the other officers who risked their own safety on Tuesday – and those who risk their lives on every traffic stop, every domestic squabble, every fight where police are called.
The award Rollins received from the national group that trains police is called the “Not Today” award. That day in November 2011, Brandon Rollins said “not today” – he was not going to allow a criminal to rob a restaurant at gunpoint.
“Not today” was he going to die after being shot.
Every day, Rollins and Page and every police officer says, “Not today.”
They say it – and live it – so those kids in Fort Mill can have a safer walk to the bus stop.