To many, the overpass near Coastal Grand Mall is just an overpass. To Jeff Hancher, it tugs at his heart.
Back in 2016 he came to visit his son Jacob Hancher, who was a community service officer with the Myrtle Beach Police Department at the time. His son explained in detail how the Memorial Day traffic loop operated and to avoid it. Despite the instruction, Jeff Hancher did his own thing and got stuck in the loop for hours after seeing the overpass, knowing his son was on the city side near the mall.
“He thought it was the funniest thing in the world and I was pissed,” Jeff Hancher said.
During that same weekend, the Hancher family stayed at a hotel on 14th Avenue South and Ocean Boulevard, an area that Jacob told his father to avoid.
Four years later, on Oct. 3, 2020, then Patrolman Jacob Hancher responded to a domestic dispute that was two blocks from that hotel. He was shot and killed in the line of duty during the dispute. Jacob Hancher was 23 years old.
“We lost a lifetime of memories,” Jeff Hancher said. “We lost future grandkids. We lost future generations.”
Myrtle Beach Mayor Brenda Bethune described Oct. 3, 2020 as a night the city will never forget.
“The pain and the trauma was real,” she said.
However, as the city worked to heal from tragedy, there was a sense of community in Myrtle Beach.
“The way that this community reached out to the Hancher family, to our police department and to the entire city team was just unbelievable,” Bethune said. “It’s something I’ve never witnessed.”
On Friday, that overpass was named the Patrolman Jacob Hancher Overpass. While there are other memorials across the county made in honor of Hancher, Jeff Hancher said this overpass near Coastal Grand Mall is the most special due to the connections he and his son shared.
The naming of the overpass to honor Hancher is also symbolic as it was part of his beat which primarily covered the Coastal Grand Mall area, according to Master Cpl. Tom Vest of the Myrtle Beach Police Department.
The overpass also holds a special place in the hearts of Jacob Hancher’s brothers and sisters in blue.
Patrolman Cody Kolb said the first time he tried to get back to work after Hancher’s death he was struggling but felt something pushing him along as he drove under the overpass towards the city. Kolb took a few moments to revisit the site where Hancher was killed before getting on with his shift. Shortly after leaving the scene, he pulled over a vehicle near the police station. When he ran the license plate number through the system, he realized that vehicle had been stopped before by Hancher.
“I knew in that exact moment that I was back where I was supposed to be and it was Jacob pushing me on,” Kolb said.
Kolb added Hancher had a tremendous impact on his life and the lives of his shift mates.
“He was a reminder that there were generally selfless and good people left in the world,” Kolb said. “He embodied everything it means to be a guardian and a servant.”
Along with working in the police department, Hancher was a volunteer with Horry County Fire Rescue at station 45 on International Drive in the Carolina Forest community. John Maguire, president of the Carolina Forest Firefighters Association, spoke about the laughs he and Hancher had during their times together, recalling how Hancher always laughed when Maguire called police cars ‘radio cars.’
“He’d always say ‘John, don’t any of the other cars have radios?’” Maguire laughed.
For Myrtle Beach Police Chief Amy Prock, the overpass will always be a reminder to live life the way Jacob Hancher did - intentionally.
“When we pass it, we can check in to make sure we are living, we are loving, we are interacting, we are connecting in the way that he did,” Prock said, adding that while the world may be tough and heartbreaking, it can also be beautiful and rewarding. “We live on today, tomorrow and the days to come and remember by honoring Jacob’s legacy by living intentionally.”