Sheriff receives anti-violence honor
Sheriff of the Year - Laurens County Sheriff Don Reynolds, left, receives from Jack Logan the Put Down the Guns Now Young People Sheriff of the Year Award for the State of South Carolina.
Logan, right, said Sheriff Reynolds was honored Thursday afternoon for a reduction in gun violence and overall violence in Laurens County, “also the way he got justice for the two year old (who was) murdered.” Director of the Upstate anti-violence organization, Logan attended a vigil for two-year-old Brantley Smith, who was found dead in June at a Clinton residence, organized by the Sheriff’s Office. Two people have been arrested in connection with the death, and they are awaiting trial. - Photo provided
PREVIOUS: Slain boy is now in ‘a place of love’
By Vic MacDonald
Dozens of Laurens County residents attended a Sunday evening vigil for a 2-year-old beaten to death allegedly by his mother's boyfriend.
"We don't want to see any child hurt," said Jack Logan, of Greenville, director of the organization, Put Down the Guns Young People.
Young Brantley now is in “a place of love,” said Rev. Chas Hayes, associate pastor and minister of students at Chestnut Ridge Baptist Church, during a prayer.
Sheriff Don Reynolds said Brantley Smith's death was not gun violence, but he said Logan was moved to action anyway. Reynolds said he, his officers and first responders are handling their emotions as best they can, and counseling and chaplaincy is available for any responders who need it. Brantley's battered and sexually abused body was found at 2:23 a.m. Saturday at 176 Country Lane, south of Clinton.
Some in the crowd shouted, "Justice for Brantley" and "No plea deal."
Logan said the justice system will have to work for the two people accused in the youngster's death - Jessica Blake Smith, the boy's mother, and William Ryan Looper, her boyfriend (see related story this issue) - but the death penalty should be examined for this homicide.
Logan said just because fists, and not guns, were involved here, the death is no less senseless and tragic for the Laurens County community. “I called Sheriff Reynolds about having this event,” Logan said. “He did not hesitate.” Reynolds said Logan brings “a warrior attitude” to the fight against the violence of today’s world.
People attending the Sunday vigil brought toys for Brantley's brothers, ages 6 1/2 and 8. Reynolds said people who want to respond with money can contact the Sheriff's Office.
Logan said the Smith boys will need the community’s assistance for many years to come. “This crowd, the people came because they care about children. To women I say, still be that mother; be sure the step-dad or boyfriend loves that child. I blame this death solely on the boyfriend.”
Reynolds said he must balance his emotions with his sworn duty to ensure that the suspects receive a fair trial. But he called the situation “horrible” and said, “It breaks my heart.” Many in the crowd were crying.
Logan asked the crowd attending the Sunday vigil to pray for the boys’ grandparents as they take a role in raising the surviving children.
He said, “This is a test for us all.”
“If you see or suspect anything,” Reynolds said, “call us; we will be glad to respond.”
The sheriff asked everyone to light a candle and engage in a moment of silent reflection for the slain boy and his family. Rev. Hayes prayed, “Brantley is pain-free. Right now, he is experiencing Your love.”
(To offer assistance, contact the Laurens County Sheriff’s Office, 864-984-4967.)