Suzanne Williams, Jacob Hancher's mother, spoke about the community support and her son love of Myrtle Beach. Jacob Hancher, a police officer, was shot and killed responding to a call.
“You good? Saw there was an officer involved shooting there tonight?
—11:18 p.m. Oct 3.
Suzanne Williams searched for the source of the high-pitched buzz in her Myrtle Beach home. A bit groggy from waking up, she thought it was a smoke detector. She didn’t realize it was her jammed front doorbell.
About 500 miles away, Jeff Hancher was asleep in his Maryland home. Jeff sent his son Jacob, a Myrtle Beach police patrol officer, a text a few hours earlier to ask about an officer-involved shooting.
Jacob was silent, but that wasn’t unusual. Jeff went to sleep until his Ring doorbell went off at 2:30 a.m. on Oct. 4. Two Charles County Sheriff’s deputies were on his front doorstep. Jeff didn’t need to hear the words. They came anyway.
“The words were expected, you know,” Jeff Hancher said. “I mean, it was shock. I probably am still in a little bit of shock. Once I saw them in the camera, I knew.”
Back in the Grand Strand, Jacob’s mom, Suzanne, tried to silence the buzz when a banging on the back door interrupted her. Her friend, Myrtle Beach police Chief Amy Prock stood in her yard.
“I saw Amy standing in the shadow and I immediately went there and I knew it wasn’t good,” Williams recalled. “I could tell by the look in her eyes it wasn’t good.”
“It’s Jacob?” Williams asked. “Yes,” Prock responded.
Williams then asked the question.
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“Did he make it?”
A law enforcement career
Jacob Hancher’s career as a first-responder started earlier than most. He spent his formative teen years living with his father in Maryland. Some of Jacob’s relatives were firefighters and the station was down the street.
It probably helped spur his desire to join the department.
Jacob went to his stepmom, Kathy, and asked about becoming a firefighter. For a kid who didn’t play sports or participate in many extracurricular activities, his parents encouraged the activity. The shy 16-year-old walked into the Waldorf, Maryland, station and said he wanted to join.
“It was a big step for a little bit of a shy kid, at that point, to talk to them about what it took to volunteer,” Jeff Hancher said.
Jacob was introverted growing up, but came out of his shell a bit when he joined the department, which became his new family.
But, Jacob always wanted to become a police officer and wrote about it in his senior portfolio—a school project which included a cover letter, resume and letters from teachers. His family shared the portfolio, stories about Jacob and dozens of photos exclusively with The Sun News during the week of his Myrtle Beach memorial services.
At 23-year-old, the first-year patrolman was gunned down Oct. 3 on Yaupon Drive as he responded to a domestic violence call.
“The career I wish to pursue is in Law enforcement,” Jacob wrote, the words almost jump off the page given what would happen five years later.
“There are very few places where I am perfectly content,” Jacob wrote. “A perfectly content place for me is in a nice quiet/stress-free environment where I can read a book, listen to music or just relax.
“One of those places is the beach.”
Soon after graduation in Maryland, Jacob came to South Carolina, where his mom and other family lived. He enrolled in Horry-Georgetown Technical College.
He still wanted to be a police officer and talked to a few members of the department. Still, only 18 years old, Jacob was too young to be a traditional policeman. They told him of a program—now called community service officers—which amounted to a four-year internship.
It was mostly grunt work that officers avoided. Delivering beach wheelchairs, rescuing animals, traffic at school. Jacob didn’t care.
“‘Mom it’s so cool, I’m getting to learn all the codes,’” Williams remembered Jacob telling her. “That’s what he would soak up.
“He was so excited to learn the radio. He was so excited to learn the logistics of working in a police department. And that is what he loved most about being a community service officer.”
He worked in the division for four years until he had the chance to go to the police academy. Jeff had no problems with his son wanting to be a cop and called it an honorable profession.
“If he wanted to do it, we supported it,” Jeff said.
Coworkers remember Hancher
Jacob came home his first day as a community service officer with a bulletproof vest in hand.
“I had a moment of ‘Oh My God’ I’m not ready for this. That is when it hit me,” Williams said. “He goes, ‘Mom, I got this...I got this. Don’t worry.’”
The phrase “I got this” became one of Jacob’s go-to’s. He uttered it to his parents, supervising officers and others to let them know he was in control.
Always in control and always upbeat was the Jacob known by many Myrtle Beach police officers. Pfc. Mark Bechtel worked the night shift along Ocean Boulevard with Jacob. Even as they started another summer day, Jacob and his trademark grin knocked on the Bechtel’s cruiser window.
“Dude, stop smiling,” Bechtel remembers telling him, “We’re gonna go to the Boulevard, it’s Friday, we’re working seven days straight. Like why are you in such a good mood now?”
“I had to start laughing, like this dude is relentless.”
Jacob never lost the positive attitude, his coworkers said.
“That’s just him,” Bechtel said. “That’s not a front, that’s not an act. That’s him as a person.”
Patrolwoman Makaeley Coleman remembered how Jacob repeatedly told her when he turned 21 years old, he would move from community service to patrol.
“He was so ecstatic. It was his dream come true,” Coleman said. “He loved the community and he passed away doing what he loved.”
Pfc. Cody Kolb shared a story relayed to him by an Horry County police officer. The officer was alone in a parking lot, until Hancher pulled up to make sure someone had his back.
“If you want to remember Jacob, just be more like him,” Kolb said. “If you see someone in the parking by themselves, literally or figuratively, watch their back.”
Bunnies, sharks and toys
Jacob was known as a protector, watching over his young siblings. His 8-year-old sister Cecelia lives in Myrtle Beach. Lexi, who is 21, lives in Florida. Jacob also has three step-siblings.
He also protected animals, which was an odd sight given Jacob was taller than most growing up. He was 6-feet-5-inches tall as an adult.
“He would find a bunny in the backyard like, ‘Mom, I found a bunny, can we keep it? I found a bunny!’” Williams said. “Bunnies were his thing. That was his jam. He loved bunnies.”
Jacob quickly grew to love the movies Space Jam and Toy Story. The latter a Pixar/Disney movie, and animated Disney films were a favorite throughout his life.
“He had all the toys,” Williams said, Cecelia showing off a Woody nutcracker from Jacob’s room. “He had Buzz Lightyear, he had Woody. He had all the toys. Toy story was his thing. ”
Jacob had his close-knit group of friends, but preferred family time. He had a passion for U.S Presidential history and read about them. The books are now in Williams’ Lakewood Elementary School classroom where she teaches.
He took exception when he saw other youngsters on television talking about the presidents and claimed he knew more.
“I got this,” Williams recounted her son saying, “I got more than him. They need to ask me.”
Jacob spent most of his life trying to overcome a learning disability, which made reading difficult.
“He did have that challenge and that’s where part of his personality was. Don’t give up and work for it came from,” Williams said, “because it didn’t come easy to him.”
Jacob’s other obsession was sharks which led to an interest in diving. His first open-water dive was for his 11th birthday at the Aquarium at DisneyWorld.
“We went down to Orlando and we took him to Epcot and did the dive in the aquarium,” Williams said. “We’ve gone diving in Cancun and the Bahamas and many times in the keys, the keys was one of his favorite places.”
The Keys would be where Jacob celebrated his 21st birthday with his relatives. They traveled frequently when he was a kid and an adult. National Parks were another population destination.
At each destination, Jacob took a rock as a souvenir. “Well, at least they don’t cost anything,” Williams quipped as “little” Jacob found a new one.
The Hanchers moved several times during Hancher’s youth and spent several years in Texas. There Jacob might have had one of the proudest moments of his life as his Little League team won the city World Series. It was one of his few ventures into sports—though he loved the Washington Capitals hockey team when he got older.
It was in the lone star state when he first joined the Boy Scouts.
When Jacob lived with Jeff in Maryland, he continued in the scouts. Jacob went to summer camp, earned merit badges and completed service projects. As Jacob progressed, he worked up to the rank of Eagle Scout, where his project included removing a pew so a grand piano could fit in the church.
“From a Dad standpoint, you want to help him,” Jeff said. “But to truly understand the project, they have to do it themselves.”
Though he was never too busy to help a fellow scout. Jeff told of one instance where Jacob gave up free time at camp to help a friend earn a swimming badge.
“He was always helpful. It wasn’t like you had to point out, ’Hey, help that kid.’ He would just go out and do it,” Jeff said.
While Suzanne claims Jacob never got in trouble, Jeff admitted it wasn’t true. If there was a group of kids doing something wrong, inevitably it was a Hancher child busted. In the 7th grade, there was a bully picking on Jacob. Nothing malicious, more being annoying. So Jacob struck back.
“So he poked him. “Bop.” and he got detention,” Jeff said. “I saw him in school, I’m like, ‘Jacob, you’ve only been here two weeks.’ And he’s just looking, it was funny. It was funny. If anyone is going to get caught, one of our kids was going to get caught.”
Jacob also wasn’t keen on straightening his room, a problem that plagued Jacob as an adult when he visited Maryland for the holidays.
“We had to say, ‘Dude, what are you doing? Clean your room, what are you doing?’” Jeff said. “Just ‘cause you’re living in South Carolina now doesn’t mean you got to live by the rules.”
Even when his parents were after his case, Jacob probably had a big smile on his face. It became his trademark, a wide grin. He never lost it. Not as a kid, not after a tough day on the cop beat.
“I swear the boy never had branches,” Williams said. “That’s just his smile.”
A gentle giant
Jacob’s smile was always around, especially during holidays with relatives. Thanksgiving was his favorite and it’s not hard to guess why given his size. The stuffing was Jacob’s responsibility every November. Nobody in the family dared try to take it over.
The inner-child remained a large part of Jacob’s personality as an adult. Disney and pop music was still an influence in his life. Patrolman Coleman recorded a video of him singing Taylor Swift songs while in his patrol car on Sept. 24. Usually, the video was shared on a Snapchat between officers, but she kept this one.
“That pretty much describes how he was all the time. I want people to remember him as that big, goofy police officer with the cheesy grin,” Coleman said.
At home, the family caught Jacob singing songs from Frozen in the shower. He used Cecelia as cover to see the sequel in theaters. A giant man would look odd at the theater alone, but a little sister was the perfect ruse.
“Yeah, he was too embarrassed to admit that he wanted to go see that movie,” Williams said.
There was also the time Cecelia was with friends and they tried to get Jacob to wear a princess crown. He wasn’t having it saying, “I’m not a princess, I’m a king.”
Jacob also had plans to read the Harry Potter books with Cecelia, in the same way he read them with his mom when they were first released.
“So he and sister had just made plans to read Harry Potter together,” Williams said. Now it’s up to someone else to pick up the mantle.
Though when it came time to work, Jacob was serious. Coworkers describe him as giving people the time of day they needed, even on nuisance calls. He had applied to join the traffic division.
His future might have included becoming a motorcycle cop, and Jacob recently got his own ride. It was a motorcycle owned by Joseph McGarry—the last Myrtle Beach police officer killed in the line of duty in 2002.
The motorcycle stayed in the department and Jacob became its newest, proud owner.
“I’m gonna own it. This is so cool, this is so cool,” Williams recounted Jacob telling her as she imitated the excitement in his voice. “It’s such an honor.”
Jacob showed off the license plate that had McGarry’s badge number and the fallen officer logo. Williams was a bit more hesitant about him owning the bike which belonged to an officer who died on the job.
“What are the chances two fallen officers owned the same bike. He was so proud. I mean so proud to own it and to know he was part of that legacy,” she said.
“Ironic, isn’t it?”
Honoring the fallen
The one word was all Chief Prock could muster to answer Williams’ question of if her son was still alive. It was the mother of a cop’s worst fear.
Instead of collapsing into her own grief, Williams’ thoughts immediately turned to her friend. Williams knew the chief as more than her son’s boss. Cecilia went to school with Prock’s son and the families were friends.
“My heart went out to Amy because this just wasn’t just another shooting,” Williams said. “This was like someone that was like a son to her.”
Williams asked Prock about what happened and learned it happened during a domestic violence call.
“I said Jacob would have been proud because that was something that was near and dear to his heart,” Williams said.
What followed was a week of shared grief and stories between the family and Myrtle Beach police. It was a chance for some officers to meet his relatives and tell them about Jacob.
The week included a South Carolina memorial service where thousands paid respects to the fallen officer. Jacob was buried in Maryland in a separate funeral earlier this week. At the Myrtle Beach memorial, the family was unaware “You got a Friend in Me” would be played during a picture slideshow.
A song from Jacob’s favorite movie. The first movie he saw in a theater.
“Oh my god, we all about to jerk with tears,” Williams said.
Williams and her family have tried to stay positive and strong all week, but she knows there will be tough moments. One happened the day before the funeral when the extra-large windshield for McGarry’s bike that Jacob ordered arrived at the family’s home.
“We know the sad moments will come. We know they will come,” Williams said. “And they come at the oddest typically when a small memory pops into our head.”
Jeff Hancher uttered three words when asked what he would tell Jacob given the chance.
“I love you,” Jeff said.
Williams said Jacob would have loved the pomp and circumstance during the week. One of his favorite standard tributes was the large American draped between two fire trucks along the procession. A standard memorial at a first responder funeral—but don’t tell Cecelia. She thinks it was her idea.
“The community outpouring has brought joy to our hearts,” Williams said.
The stories about Jacob warmed the Hancher family’s heart, Williams said, and helped in the moments of grief. It was then Williams recounted what Jacob’s oldest sister told her. What Jacob would have thought about everything. How Myrtle Beach collectively told Jacob, “we got this.”
“Jacob would want us to be proud,” Williams said. “He wouldn’t want us to be sad. He would be so proud of what the city is doing for him. He would be so proud of what he did.”
This story was originally published October 15, 2020 9:46 AM.
Source : https://www.myrtlebeachonline.com/news/state/south-carolina/article246451005.html5951