Man charged in brutal Aiken assault volunteered with Public Safety

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News 12 at First at Five / Friday, July 26, 2013

Derek Randolph Brooks (WRDW-TV)
Derek Randolph Brooks (WRDW-TV)

AIKEN, S.C. (WRDW) -- Like so many others, Gloria Jones is still in shock.

"It's really unbelievable right now. It really is," she tells News 12. "It's really something that you can't comprehend right now."

Just days ago, 38-year-old Derek Brooks was arrested and jailed, and he's facing big charges: Attempted Murder, Kidnapping, and Criminal Sexual Conduct in the First Degree.

The charges come after police say Brooks beat a girl until she was unconscious, sexually assaulted her, and left her for dead in Downtown Aiken. An incident report says the attack happened around 2:15 AM on the morning of July 12 on the median at the intersection of Park Avenue and Newberry Street.

"When they said 'Derek Brooks' I'm like, 'Derek Brooks. Derek Brooks.' And then I finally got the face with the name, and, like I said, it's just unbelievable," says Jones.

That's because Brooks was well-known in Aiken. Jones says he coached track and field at Aiken High School. However, Principal Garen Cofer says he was just a volunteer and wasn't in any way an employee of Aiken High or the Aiken County Public School District.

News 12 found a school newspaper article, however, that says Brooks trained runners in the long jump, triple jump, sprints, and relays.

"He was just a well-mannered fellow when he was growing up," Jones tells News 12. "Always respectful. Yes ma'am. No ma'am. Yes sir. No sir."

That's the reason Jones and others are wondering if he did the crime and, if so, why.

However, the Aiken Department of Public Safety has a large amount of evidence. Captain David Turno says his men and women worked tirelessly since July 12 to identify and capture the suspect. Turno says investigators collection "forensic science" evidence and a number of clips of surveillance video.

News 12 asked Turno if the video shows Brooks during the assault. Capt. Turno couldn't comment, but he did say that the video will be instrumental during the trial.

Ironically, brooks likely knew some if not many of the officers at Aiken Public Safety. Brooks coached track and field for the Aiken Public Safety's Police Activities League (PAL), a league that provides athletic and recreational activities to children who may not qualify for those activities otherwise. In fact, the PAL Facebook page even thanks Brooks, among others, by name for his coaching. That status was posted only a few days before he allegedly committed the crime.

"We know him, but do we really know him?" wonders Jones.

PAL Program Director LaLita Ashley wouldn't comment but did say that she was shocked by the news.

Meanwhile, Capt. Turno says the victim is doing better physically. He said she is very strong-willed.

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