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Deputy Brandon Rollins refuses to give up

L to R; Dave Smith aka JD
L to R; Dave Smith aka JD "Buck" Savage and Sgt. Brandon Rollins.

Brandon Rollins remembers clutching his side last fall, moments after being struck by an armed robber’s bullet, and vowing he wasn’t going to die


The Lancaster County sheriff’s deputy told a crowd of more than 100 law enforcement officers Thursday morning, April 12, that it was all about having something to believe in.


As guest speaker during a day-long police safety seminar held at the University of South Carolina Lancaster’s Bundy Auditorium, Rollins told his harrowing story about being shot in the line of duty at a Lancaster restaurant.


It was dinner time on Nov. 17, 2011, and Rollins was enjoying a meal with three of his fellow drug task force officers at the Shrimp Boat restaurant, located along Memorial Park Road. The group, dressed in plain clothes, were taking a break from conducting drug surveillance and making arrests in the area when they heard a commotion near the front of the restaurant.


“At first, it sounded like a customer was being irate. All four of us at the same time got quiet and we could hear the guy saying open the register and give me the money,” Rollins said. “All four of us jumped up, dropped our forks and got out our guns.”


Left to Right; Dave Smith aka Buck Savage, Sgt. Brandon Rollins of the Lancaster County Sheriff�??s Office, SC (PBA member), and Brandon�??s wife, Micah Couch Rollins.


He said they began moving toward the front door and that’s when the shooting started.


“I moved around a table to get some cover and got low. That’s when I stepped into a .357 round going into the wall,” he said. “I never felt a feeling like that before, but I knew suddenly I’d been shot. All the pain was in my side and my chest. I looked down, there was blood on my hand and I said, ‘I’ve been hit, I’ve been shot.’”


He remembers one of his fellow deputies leaning in to put pressure on his wound, while the other two deputies covered the front door. During the shootout, the robber fled the restaurant.


“I remember sitting on the floor, watching blood drip off my side, not knowing where I’ve been shot, but I knew I didn’t want to die,” he said. “As I sat there, I was wondering if I told my wife goodbye, if I told my kids goodbye. That’s something you say every day before you leave, just in case.”


The last thing he wanted to do was lie down or close his eyes, Rollins said.


“People kept asking me to lay down, but I didn’t want to lay down on the floor because that meant I was giving up,” he said. “It’s all about your mindset. I didn’t want to give up.”


Sgt. Brandon Rollins on stage at Bundy Auditorium and the University of South Carolina Lancaster.


One of his fellow officers called for help on his cell phone and minutes later Emergency Medical Services had whisked him away in an ambulance. At the time, medics who were treating him found three wounds and believed he’d been shot three times, Rollins said.


“The sheriff was with me about five minutes after I was shot. I got blood on his sweater vest. He rode on the ambulance with me all the way to the hospital,” he said.


Rollins was later flown by helicopter to Carolinas Medical Center in Charlotte. Within hours, he learned the three wounds were actually caused by one bullet that traveled laterally through his body.


Pointing to his right side near his rib cage, Rollins showed thecrowd where the bullet entered, where it exited on his left side and where it eventually stopped in his left arm.


Dave Smith aka JD �??Buck�?� Savage and Doug Cook of the PBA.


“I learned the bullet entered, hit my ribs, hit an artery, then exited and went into my bicep where it’s lodged in my arm,” he said.


After his surgery, Rollins’ hospital room was packed full of visitors, as well as cards and balloons from fellow officers.


“These guys didn’t have to do that,” he said. “There were guys who volunteered to sit with me for days. Officers from Spartanburg, Anderson, from all over came to see me in the hospital. There were a lot of phone calls. That meant a lot to me that you guys called.”


He said there are several things that helped him through his recovery, including support from family, friends and other law enforcement officers.


“You need to believe in something,” he said. “Be there for your friends, be a friend. Guys, call and leave a message. It means a lot to them, I know.”


Faith was also central to his recovery, he said.


“I believe in an awesome God and absolutely believe that’s why I’m standing here today,” he said. “It’s helped me stay focused.”


Rodrick Darnell Caskey, 19, of Lancaster was arrested hours after the shooting and charged with attempted murder and armed robbery in the case. He was also injured during the shootout, though his injuries were not life-threatening.


Doug Cook recruiting outside of the Seminar


‘Winning’ seminar


Rollins kicked off an eight-hour police training seminar Thursday called “The Winning Mind,” hosted by longtime police trainer Dave Smith.


Smith, who starred as “Buck Savage” in a series of humorous police-training videos in the 1980s, has been crossing the country for more than two decades doling out advice to officers about safety, risk and optimism.


Through a series of videos and training sessions, Smith spent the day explaining how to give law enforcement officers a “mental edge” when dealing with threats both on the street and in their daily lives.


He said one of the keys is to be selfless.


“Gangbangers have dignity, honor and courage, though it’s a bizarro, anti-Superman kind of thing for them,” Smith said. “But the thing they don’t have is selflessness. That’s one of the greatest things a warrior brings.”


He emphasized the need for each person to realize his skills and abilities and be confident in them, making them better prepared for life’s challenges.


Through the story of a friend and fellow officer who was forced to shoot and kill a suspect many years ago, Smith also urged officers to be there for each other during the aftermath of similar situations.


“You’ve got to care about each other,” Smith said. “That’s what it means to be a winner.”


Lancaster County Sheriff’s Office Lt. Eric Brown said Rollins credits a Smith seminar he attended last year for aiding in his survival.


Doug Cook of the PBA and Dr. John Rutledge (UpState Chapter Board Member and Criminal Justice Professor at the University of South Carolina Lancaster).  Dr. Rutledge is also the Director of Law Enforcement and Security at  the University of South Carolina Lancaster


“Dave’s words came back to him while laying in a pool of blood. He refused to give up and walked out of the hospital four days later,” Brown said in an e-mail, Wednesday, April 11.


Brown said Rollins will soon receive a new national award, to be given annually, that recognizes police officers who survive critical incidents and exemplify a “not today” attitude. Rollins will be the inaugural winner.


** Courtasy of Chris Sardelli/ and the Lancaster Times

Contact reporter Chris Sardelli at (803) 416-8416

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Deputy Brandon Rollins refuses to give up

April 13, 2012

Brandon Rollins remembers clutching his side last fall, moments after being struck by an armed robber's bullet, and vowing he wasn't going to die