Local cop uses hometown connections to solve crime

 

By Caitlin Doermer

Lexington Police Officer Stanley Tomlin thought it was a long shot that he would ever find the thieves who stole two fire extinguishers from a construction site at the Presbyterian Church in early October. But four days later, using his hometown connections and instincts, he traced the stolen items to Rockbridge County High School students.

Tomlin, 25, has worked at the Lexington Police Department for a little less than a year, but he is not new to west-central Virginia. Born in Lynchburg, he moved to Rockbridge County when he was 8.

“I’m a southern boy,” he said. “I like it here. I like the department. I like who I work with and who I work for.”

This past August, Tomlin married Megan Leggins after nearly six years of dating. Megan said her father is a Methodist minister and her family moved from Fluvanna County to Lexington in 2002. She said she doesn’t plan on moving and cannot picture their lives anywhere else.

After graduating from Rockbridge County High School in 2004, Tomlin went to Hampden-Sydney College to play baseball. He volunteers as an umpire for leagues for high school-age athletes. He says he grew up playing sports for the Rockbridge Area Recreational Organization, a group that sets up youth and adult sports, and also has spent the last nine years as a referee for football and soccer.

“I would say about 70 percent [of the Lexington population] knows me on a first-name basis,” he said. “And if they don’t know me, they say, “Ref!”

He said he met his best friend, Travis Patterson, playing sports when Tomlin was 10. After football practice, Tomlin said, other boys bullied him because he was small for his age.

One day at practice, Patterson asked Tomlin why the boys picked on him. He told Tomlin, “You should hit ‘em back. Follow me.” Patterson flattened the boys on the next play. Tomlin said he was never picked on again.

“We’ve been best friends ever since,” he said. “He’s the big brother I never had.”

Tomlin left Hampden-Sydney College after a year because he wasn’t getting enough playing time on the baseball team. He transferred to Dabney S. Lancaster Community College but left after a year to work at a sawmill.

Sawmills are a part of Tomlin’s family. In 1944 his grandfather made the cover of Southern Logging Times magazine as the best sawyer in Virginia.

Tomlin said he did well at the sawmill, but he didn’t like it. “I was in a dead end job,” he said. “And I can’t stand monotonous work.”

By then Patterson had been with the Rockbridge County Sheriff’s Department for almost a year. Tomlin said he told his best friend he also was interested in becoming a police officer.

Patterson told Tomlin the job had its ups and downs. Tomlin said he has yet to go on a “dead on arrival call.” He said he dreads seeing a dead body and comforting a grieving family.

Megan Tomlin said her husband began applying for positions at police departments in 2009.

“It was like a light switch went on,” she said. “He knew that’s what he wanted to do.”

Nearly two years later, his hometown police department hired him. He received training at the Cardinal Criminal Justice Academy in Salem.

The best part of training, Tomlin said, was learning how to drive and control a police car. The worst part, he said, was being sprayed with Mace and being shot with a Taser. He said it took almost 45 minutes to get his sight back and almost six hours for his eyes and skin to stop burning.

“It was the worst experience of basic training,” he said. “I’ve never felt pain like that.”

Megan Tomlin said she noticed a difference in his personality.

“He seemed like a completely different person,” she said. “He would come home every day and say, ‘I love it!’ That’s something I never heard before.”

Tomlin graduated from the academy on May 27 and began a field-training period. For the next nine weeks, an experienced officer accompanied him in the police car. After that he was on his own.

On recent patrols, Tomlin stopped several drivers to write tickets or issue warnings for various traffic violations, such as speeding, broken taillights and illegal turns.

There’s more to the job than writing tickets, he said. “You recover somebody’s cell phone, wallet, driver’s license that got stolen, and they take the time to send you a thank you card,” he said. “That, in itself, is reward.”

Tomlin said he has “the greatest job in the world.” He said his enthusiasm for his work comes from being raised in a farming family.

“Farming communities were always real tight knit. You didn’t just work on your farm. You helped your neighbor with his farm,” he said. “It was a giving, sharing community.”