Andrew Dys

‘Our hero is home’: Procession brings slain deputy Mike Doty back to York County

The wind whipped in front of Piedmont Medical Center, so cold it froze the tears running down Susan Sauvigne’s face. She did not wipe the tears. She and her husband, Craig, stood outside and held an American flag to honor a hero they’d never met.

The couple stood in the middle of Herlong Avenue with dozens of other people.

“We had to be here, to honor Mike Doty,” Susan Suavigne said. “He was a hero. He laid his life down for all of us.”

Doty, came home to York County on Thursday. The 37-year-old York County Sheriff’s Department detective was shot Tuesday in what police describe as an ambush by a domestic violence suspect. Doty died Wednesday night at Carolinas Medical Center – 25 miles away in Charlotte.

On Thursday, a line of emergency vehicles stretched for half a mile or more, with hundreds of cops and firefighters and others escorting the unit that carried Doty to the York County morgue in the back of Piedmont Medical Center.

Parts of Interstate 77 were closed in Charlotte for a short period as the procession headed south. On-duty cops handled traffic at other spots, redirecting people on S.C. 161 and other roads.

Spots along Celanese Road, India Hook Road and Herlong Avenue were lined with people crying and saluting. Some carried American flags.

Next to Susan and Craig Sauvigne stood a retired Rochester, N.Y., patrol officer named Darryl Council. Council, no more than 5-feet, 5 inches tall, wore his police winter jacket with the police patch on it. He also stood in the middle of Herlong Avenue. He saluted through the entire procession for the man he never met.

“I am here for one reason, to honor a fallen brother in law enforcement named Mike Doty,” Council said.

Four Rock Hill Fire Department officers stood nearby and saluted, next to their truck blocking the busy road. Detective Ryan Thomas of the Rock Hill Police Department, usually a homicide investigator, was on duty as part of traffic control. Thomas spends much of his professional life telling families a loved one is dead, then trying to put killers in jail. He stood straight, silent and saluted through the entire procession. The hurt was visible on his face.

Inside those procession cars, occupants stared straight ahead. It was not a parade; no one waved.

The procession curled around the back of the hospital complex to the morgue. It passed dozens of hospital workers who poured out to honor Doty.

The officers unfurled themselves from cars in the back parking lot and even parked along Frank Gaston Boulevard near the morgue.

Undercover officers with bushy beards and stiff Carhartt jackets who served in the county drug unit with Mike Doty walked into the morgue – with guns and tears.

Detectives Pete Branham, Mark Motz, Fred Moore, Russ Yeager, Johnny Martin and Joey Wallace, who worked for years with Doty in the York County Sheriff’s Office, silently walked from their cars into the morgue.

Cpl. Pierre King from York walked in. Maj. Steve Thompson and Maj. Mike Belk from Rock Hill, so many more – from Tega Cay, Fort Mill, Clover, Winthrop University and Charlotte – all walked in.

Sgt. Phillip Aldridge, a York County deputy who works the northern part of the county walked in. Aldridge worked with Doty on drug busts and human trafficking busts and a host of other calls.

Inside the hospital, the officers lined up on both sides of the hall, according to those present. Attendants brought Doty’s body past all the police officers.

And then it was over.

Outside the morgue, cops gathered and hugged and shook hands in an area off limits to the public. Only officials are allowed behind the fence where the dead arrive.

The officers then walked away in groups of two or three or five – or alone.

Three cops were not there. Sgt. Randy Clinton and Sgt. Buddy Brown of the sheriff’s office, and Sgt. Kyle Cummings of the York Police Department. They also were shot and wounded, allegedly by the same gunman, in the ambush that started Monday night and ended Tuesday morning.

On Thursday, Clinton and Brown remain hospitalized in Charlotte. Cummings was released from the Charlotte hospital at roughly the same time Doty was taken into the hospital in Rock Hill, said Andy Robinson, York police chief.

Lt. Keith Wills of the York Police Department walked out alone, almost rushing. He has been a police officer for almost 20 years. He became known around America in December 2015 for giving a shoplifter shoes because the man was broke and just out of jail.

Wills knows all the officers who were wounded. He knew Mike Doty.

Wills turned his head before he left – in tears – like the strangers who are not cops were crying on a cold day in front of the hospital.