Stepping up for a brother in blue

CLOVER -- Fear struck Clover Police Sgt. David Dover as he stared at the mangled Pontiac Firebird wrapped around a tree.

"In all my years of EMS -- I started EMS in -'97 -- and the motor vehicle crashes and gunshots and stuff that I've been to, I've never had a worse feeling," said the 29-year-old officer.

The car belonged to Cpl. Lucas Moss, Dover's partner on the day shift for two months and the 26-year-old who was driving to meet him for an early-morning workout when his Firebird struck a deer Tuesday.

Moss remained in serious condition Wednesday at Carolinas Medical Center in Charlotte, a hospital spokeswoman said.

But friends and family are staying hopeful, and all of Clover's 14 officers are stepping up for their brother in blue.

"I think everybody in the police department has been up there," Moss' 26-year-old wife, Charity, said of the hospital visits. "They're just all here for us, and they took care of us."

The crash happened shortly before 5:15 a.m. Tuesday, Lance Cpl. Ron Johnson of the S.C. Highway Patrol said. Investigators determined that Moss struck a deer before colliding with the tree.

On the morning of the crash, Dover received a text message from Moss to make sure he was awake. The two were scheduled to lift weights at the Clover YMCA at 5 a.m. before heading to a training session at the state Department of Motor Vehicles in Columbia.

At 5:05 a.m., Dover sent Moss a text message asking him if he was OK. He didn't get a response, which was unusual for the punctual man who served in the U.S. Marines and now serves in the U.S. Air Force reserves.

Shocking realization

Dover finished a weightlifting set and then called Moss' cell. The call went straight to voicemail, which also was strange because he typically answered the calls of his only backup. Dover finished his final set of reps. Moss still hadn't called. Dover tried him again and again got Moss' voicemail.

Then, Dover heard a siren coming from the direction of S.C. 55. He called the 911 center and learned EMS was responding to a wreck on Lawrence Road -- Moss' route.

Dover pulled up behind the ambulance. A York County sheriff's deputy who knew Moss also came to the scene.

"At first, I didn't recognize who he was," the deputy told Dover. "Then, it hit me. 'Oh, my God, that's Lucas.'"

Moss needed to be flown to Carolinas Medical Center, but the weather was too bad to risk aflight. Dover asked the emergency workers if they could drive Moss to Charlotte, but a paramedic told him Moss wasn't stable enough to travel that far.

Dover asked the deputy to go to Moss' house and take Charity to the hospital. Then he called Charity and told her to get ready because someone was on the way pick her up.

Dover rode in the ambulance with Moss to Piedmont Medical Center in Rock Hill. He stayed in the trauma room until Moss' family arrived. Then, he walked into the waiting area.

Nearly every officer in the Clover department was there.

"If they knew about it, they were there," Dover said.

Moss was taken to a CMC trauma unit as soon as he was stable. Dover said his partner suffered four broken ribs and a collapsed lung. He had a large gash on the left side of his head, but he didn't need surgery. Still, his family doesn't know how long he'll be in the hospital.

Known to his police buddies as a jokester, Moss has been with the department since August 2005. He's also respected outside the department by people such as Rick Patel, the 48-year-old who works at a convenience store on the south end of town frequented by Clover officers.

"He's a good friend," said Patel, who has known Moss for about two-and-a-half years. Patel was supposed to work out with Moss and Dover on the morning of the accident.

"He's all right," Patel said of Moss' improved condition. "Thank God, he is alive."

Lucas and Charity Moss have been married for more than five years. She teaches algebra and geometry to ninth-graders at Clover High School. He just switched from the night patrol two months ago.

Folks from both the school and the police department have stepped up for the family. Clover Police Chief Chip Guerry went to Moss' house Wednesday and worked on a problematic well. That same day, a lady from the family that reported the wreck gave police flowers to take to their injured colleague.

Numerous visitors have come by the hospital, including rescue workers, townsfolk and, of course, police officers, a group Charity didn't know was so close-knit.

"They are," she said. "And I've realized that -- a lot."