Andrew Dys

Rock Hill cops step up patrols at military sites; safety of troops must be top priority

Joe Medlin
Joe Medlin Jim Stratakos jstratakosR@herald

After the rash of incidents targeting the military in America, including the most recent killing of Marines in Tennessee, the Rock Hill Police Department has increased its patrols near both the National Guard armory located near the Rock Hill/York County Airport and the armed forces recruiting offices at the Rock Hill Galleria mall.

“We have stepped up patrols on our own initiative in both of those areas – near the armory and the recruiting station – and if asked by state or military officials to do more, we will,” said Capt. Mark Bollinger, spokesman for Rock Hill police. “We are showing more visibility.”

For York County Veterans Affairs Officer Joe Medlin, an Iraq and Afghanistan combat veteran who saw killing firsthand on the battlefield, the safety of troops here at home must be a top priority.

After five service members were shot and killed Thursday in Chattanooga, and other shootings and threats against those in uniform, Medlin welcomes the decision by Gov. Nikki Haley and the S.C. adjutant general to step up security and conduct threat assessments at all South Carolina military sites.

“I hope the assessment brings findings that we need more security, and that the resources are found to give our men and women the security they deserve and have earned,” Medlin said. “The troops deserve the best.”

Medlin, recently retired after more than 20 years of service, was the command sergeant major – the top enlisted man – for the Army National Guard Combat Engineer Battalion. He serves as the advocate for thousands of York County veterans at his office on South Cherry Road – a building that has no assigned security despite being home to a magistrate court, prosecutor and public defender offices, among other functions.

A York County sheriff’s substation is next-door, and police are in and out of the building for court regularly, but there is no formal security. Medlin said his office has staff who are combat veterans, and he is “confident in the staff we have” for safety.

The specific actions that the military and law enforcement will take for safety are not being made public, but residents could see an increased military and law enforcement presence at Guard sites, said Col. Cynthia King, spokeswoman for the S.C. National Guard. King declined to say if armed soldiers would be stationed at armories, including those in Rock Hill, Fort Mill, Chester and Lancaster.

King did encourage the public to be wary and vigilant.

“We are a part of the community,” she said, “and we all look out for each other.”

The York County Sheriff’s Office has not been asked to do anything more with patrols, spokesman Trent Faris said, but deputies would provide any help necessary to keep military personnel safe at any county site. Fort Mill police will “without question” help with extra patrols or any other assistance at or near the Fort Mill Armory, said Maj. Bryan Zachary of the Fort Mill Police Department.

“We will lend whatever assistance we can,” Zachary said, “to make sure all our service members feel safe and are safe.”

Andrew Dys: 803-329-4065