Pope, Little named Officers of the Year

Published 3:03 pm Friday, May 13, 2011

Law enforcement officers never know what a new day or night will bring. They face the possibility of a dangerous situation each time they answer a call.

For Sergeant Jason Pope and Officer Chase Little, recently named the Greenville Police Department’s Officers of the Year, the night of May 25, 2010, is one they will never forget. And it is one they hope two young children will not remember.

“We got a call that a young girl had called 9-1-1,” Little says.

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“She indicated someone in her home had been shot.”

Sometimes those calls turn out to be false alarms, so we didn’t get alarmed at first,” explained Pope.

The residence they were called to on Winkler Street was a familiar one to Pope, who said he had spoken many times with its occupant, Jim Heard, who had helped him out on a couple of occasions. Now Heard was standing on the porch with his back to the police officers.

“We tried to piece together in our heads just what was going on,” Pope added.

Little said he and Pope had their weapons out and ready, uncertain of what Heard would do next.

After ignoring repeated orders by the police to lie down, Heard began to turn, a gun visible in his hand.

“We saw a muzzle flash from his gun and we fired,” Little said.

While it appeared Heard, who died on the scene, may have been intending to kill himself, Pope said they couldn’t take any chances.

“Let’s say it was a stressful situation,” Pope said.

In the process of clearing the house, the officers found the seven-year-old girl who’d placed the call, and a three-year-old boy, along with Mildred Heard, 61, who had been shot in the face by her husband.

“She was still alive, but it was bad,” Pope said.

Little, the father of twins who were also three at the time of the incident, was concerned about any further trauma the children might experience.

“I told them we were going to play a game, and they would have to close their eyes and try to guess where they were . . . we got them out the back door. We just didn’t want them to see that scene,” Little said.

“That’s what bothered me the most. Knowing these kids endured something they won’t get out of their heads.”

Pope said, “The little girl was a real trouper. I give kudos where kudos are deserved. A lot of adults wouldn’t have handled things as well as she did.”

Heard’s wife was not his only victim that evening.

Investigators discovered Heard’s sister-in-law, Marian George, with a gunshot to her chest a block away. George was pronounced dead at L.V. Stabler Memorial Hospital.

“Everything was handled very professionally and very well. But it was good to get to go home and be with our families,” Pope said.

Little, who served eight years as a Marine, will mark his third year with the GPD this month.

“I guess I’ve always wanted to protect and serve in some way, my community, county, country,” Little said.

“My time in Iraq taught me a lot. The training I got there and that I’ve received here really helps in this job. The toughest part of it, really, is leaving the street behind when you go home. You can’t bring things home.”

Pope, who originally had aspirations to be a teacher, decided he wanted to become a police officer in his hometown. He has served as a member of the Special Response Team since 2005 and says the intensive training he has received as a team member has been really beneficial.

“No two days are alike. We have the crime and urgency like they do in bigger cities and we have quiet days, too. But you know that no wreck or domestic call is going to be like another,” Pope said.

Dealing with the aftermath of a death is the toughest thing, he said.

“It’s having to tell the family they have lost someone,” Pope said. “You just never know how people will react.”

GPD Chief Lonzo Ingram said the two officers could be counted on to do a good job on a daily basis.

“It’s great to have good, dedicated, loyal employees out there serving the public,” he said.