It's as tragic as it is horrifying... a disgruntled army soldier decides the best possible course of action is to shoot a policeman in cold blood.
Unfortunately for Richmond County Sheriff's Deputy James Paugh, he had just finished a shift and was on his way home near Augusta, Georgia, when his path crossed that of Christopher Michael Hodges.
Hodges was a member of the Tennessee National Guard who had been training at Fort Gordon, GA for the past 6 months.
Whatever "issues" Hodges had with the world, we will never know because as just quickly as he fired the 9 shots that murdered Deputy James Paugh, he turned his M4 rifle on himself and ended his own life.
It would have been SO much better if Hodges would have just killed himself first and left Deputy Paugh out of it, and I suppose I'll have to settle for being grateful Hodges is dead while mourning the loss of another good policeman.
As a cop, just surviving your shift some days can be a big deal, but to have accomplished that and be on your way home, only to have some lunatic shoot you dead just seems like the ultimate insult.
According to news reports Hodges clearly had some problems. He'd been fighting with his girlfriend as they drove down the Bobby Jones Expressway and had even gotten into a physical altercation with her as their car was stopped on the side of the road.
Sitting in his car on the side of the highway that night, Christopher Hodges' idea of a good time was shooting his M4 at passing traffic. Investigators discovered he'd fired at least 35 shots at passing automobiles.
That morphed into Hodges killing the man who had simply stopped to check if everyone was okay before continuing home at the end of his shift. Sadly for Deputy Paugh he was a cop who was simply, as they say, in the wrong place at the wrong time.
He had no idea shots were being fired at passing traffic.
It was the biggest mistake he ever made, and it cost him his life.
Sheriff Ronnie Strength said Paugh probably didn't realize Hodges and his girlfriend had been fighting on the side of the road and that the officer had just pulled over to conduct a well-being check.
That dedicated character is what hundreds of colleagues, friends and family remembered about Paugh as they gathered at the Richmond County Law Enforcement Center for a remembrance vigil Sunday evening.
Standing on top of a grassy mound in the center's parking lot at 401 Way, Strength told the crowd Paugh was a "fun-loving guy" who was a dedicated officer despite the dangers that come with the profession.
"We never know in law enforcement, when we wake up in the morning, what's going to happen," Strength said.
"He definitely didn't know. ... He's in a better place than we are today. No doubt in my mind."
As always when we hear of good men and women from law enforcement gunned down for no reason by people like this... our thoughts and prayers are with the family and friends of Richmond County Sheriff's Deputy James D. Paugh in this time of grief and mourning.
As Sheriff Ronnie Strength said, "He's in a better place than we are today."
I'm equally certain that the man who so callously murdered him before taking his own life is somewhere much, much hotter... just as he should be.
Funeral services for Richmond County Sheriff's Deputy James D. Paugh will be held this coming Thursday, October 27, 2011, according to officials. Please send your thoughts and prayers to the family and friends of James Paugh at that time, and as for you James, may you Rest In Peace.