Spartanburg, SC – The widow of slain Spartanburg County Deputy Austin Aldridge gave birth to their baby daughter on Tuesday, according to her family.
The Spartanburg County Sheriff’s Office (SCSO) shared a photo of Jessica Aldridge and her newborn daughter on its Facebook page on Feb. 22.
“Please welcome our newest member of the family, Claire Austin Aldridge. Her parents are Deputy Austin Aldridge and Jessica Aldridge,” the SCSO said. “The family would like to thank the community for their prayers, donations, gifts, respect and kind words. Please continue to pray for Austin’s family, Jessica and Claire.”
The family celebrated the new arrival in a Facebook post on Tuesday night.
“We are overjoyed and proud to announce the birth of Claire Austin Aldridge!” the post read. “She is so precious and the perfect, heavenly gift. She is the answer to our many prayers. While we experience a roller coaster of emotions, we are so thankful for this sweet miracle…”
“Life is very different and we are forging a new normal. There are still many hard moments. Sweet Claire has brought new joy and reasons to smile. We are blessed even in the storm. We must find a way to focus on the good and continue life’s journey,” they said. “Austin was dearly loved by so many. He was kind, lovable, brave and witty. We miss him so very much!”
Deputy Aldridge, 25, was murdered in the line of duty while responding to a report of a domestic disturbance at a residence on Chaffee Drive in the Oak Forest subdivision at approximately 3:20 p.m. on June 21, 2022, WYFF reported.
Police said the suspect, 63-year-old Duane Heard, shot him in the head after the deputy knocked on his door, according to FOX News.
“He was ambushed,” Spartanburg County Sheriff Chuck Wright told reporters shortly after the shooting.
Witnesses immediately called 911 to let them know they needed help and that a deputy had been shot.
Additional deputies raced to the scene to secure the area in order for emergency medical personnel to reach the wounded hero, WYFF reported.
Deputy Aldridge succumbed to his wounds at Spartanburg Regional Medical Center shortly before 9:30 p.m. that night, Spartanburg County Coroner Rusty Clevenger said.
Meanwhile, another deputy spotted the suspect vehicle traveling down Anderson Mill Road in the direction of Highway 290.
SCSO Lieutenant Kevin Bobo said the suspect acted as if he planned to surrender during the ensuing traffic stop, but that he then opened fire on the deputy, WYFF reported.
The deputy returned fire, hitting the gunman twice, Sheriff Wright said.
Sheriff Wright said the deputy was “by himself for a while” while other deputies were responding, the Spartanburg Herald-Journal reported.
“After knowing this guy had done what he did, he didn’t back up at all,” he said of the deputy. “He kept trucking, he kept going.”
Despite his wounds, Heard continued driving down Anderson Mill Road and later crashed just prior to reaching the Highway 290 intersection, according to Lt. Bobo.
The suspect allegedly opened fire on deputies yet again and took off running into the woods.
No other deputies were injured during the exchange of gunfire, according to WMBF.
Deputies established a perimeter and dispatched SWAT and K9 units to search for him, WYFF reported.
They ultimately located Heard lying on the ground next to a rifle, Sheriff Wright said.
“Our men showed great restraint knowing that one of our guys had just been ambushed without firing any shots at him. They just arrested him,” the sheriff told reporters. “We are the good guys. We do it right and we did it right. I just ask you to pray for our deputy.”
Heard was transported to the hospital for treatment of his wounds, where he remained until being approved for discharge on Oct. 20, 2022, FOX News reported.
The alleged cop-killer was charged with capital murder and released to the custody of the York County Detention Center.
Heard was moved to a hospice facility after his health began to deteriorate and was pronounced dead on Oct. 28, 2022, FOX News reported.
Deputy Aldridge served the SCSO for approximately three years, The State reported.
“He was a really good young man,” Sheriff Wright said as he fought back tears during a press conference held shortly after the young deputy’s murder.
Deputy Aldridge and his wife discovered just two days before his murder that they were going to become parents, according to a fundraising campaign established to help his family.
Donors contributed more than $238,000 to the fund so far.