MEET A FAMILY OF HEROES
BY MICHELLE MOORE
PHOTOGRAPHY BY SCOTT CUNNINGHAM
We have a name for people who protect and rescue others: we call them heroes. But, too often, those of the honest-to-goodness variety go unsung. That includes people like these three – Columbus family members related by both blood and badge.
Passionate and full of pure, fierce pride when engaged in shoptalk, this father, son and daughter protect those of us who live, work and play in this city from threats big and small. Zach, Zachary David and Sarah Scott work grueling, stressful hours yet insist they are having the most fun of their lives – fun from the standpoint of loving the responsibility they have been given and getting a serious rush out of living up to it.
Zach Scott, the father, is a Corporal Supervisor of Community Relations with the Franklin County Sheriff’s Office, working the D.A.R.E. program, special events and various safety initiatives. His son, Zachary David Scott, is a U.S. Army veteran and police officer with the Columbus Police Department while daughter Sarah Scott works as a Franklin County deputy sheriff, moonlighting as a law student at Capital University. All three share a true love for law enforcement.
The senior Zach began his career with the county almost 25 years ago, working in the jail before quickly transferring to the undercover division. For over a decade, he adopted personas believable enough to infiltrate the inner sanctums of notorious criminal rings, mingling with some of the most dangerous people you would never want to meet and untangling the complicated trail of a narcotics underworld stretching from Columbus to New York to Miami. In fact, he worked the biggest non-task force-related drug bust ever in Franklin County, cleaning the streets of 20 kilos of cocaine from Cali, Colombia worth just under $1 million.
From all the undercover excitement came an unexpected passion: he discovered he loved acting and had a talent for it. “Undercover, you know whether or not your audience buys you when you’re buying dope,” says Zach. “If your guy says ‘I don’t know why, somethin’ ain’t right about you dude. You gotta leave,’ you know they didn’t buy you.” Zach transferred his natural acting ability into a career on the side, appearing in TV commercials for the likes of Taco Bell and KFC, and movies such as Traffic and Uninvited Guest. Plus, he just finished a chilling, half-hour A&E series, Crime Town USA, that documented one of his real-life cases. “It was about an aeronautical engineer I interrogated for over 10 hours,” says Zach. “The guy stabbed and killed his mother and father.”
His resume includes service as a SWAT team member and homicide detective, placing him square in the middle of some of the area’s most famous cases. As the lead detective in the I-270 shooter case, he worked with a 10 agency task force, trudging through four straight months of 16 to 20 hour days without any time off because, as Zach well knows, “the criminals don’t sleep.”
What is it like to be part of a police family? Just ask the kids. Zachary David longed to be a police officer as early as kindergarten. When asked to draw a picture of what he wanted to be when he grew up, he scribbled a police officer and an army man, eventually fulfilling both dreams. He is a decorated soldier – a Purple Heart recipient after suffering wounds suffered from a 2004 grenade explosion in Afghanistan. He also lived in Tanzania for one year as part of his military experience, serving as a civil affairs officer, building and maintaining relationships with tribal elders and national leaders. Just 23 years old at the time, some $4.5 million worth of U.S. aid passed through his hands, helping to fund schools, clinics and other various projects aimed at fostering American goodwill. With talents as diverse and creative as his father’s, he even tried painting for a period when the scenic intrigue of Africa stirred him to pick up the brush.
Today, after finishing his shift on the streets of Columbus, the younger Zach studies for a bachelor’s degree at Franklin University and also finds time to compete in the martial art disciplines of jujutsu and muay thai.
The son of the Scott clan has a realistic view of the public’s perception of law enforcement officers. “Police are a subculture,” he says. “With any subculture, most people have a small, select view. For instance, if the only encounter you’ve ever had with a police officer was a negative one, you’ll associate the entire subculture with the negative. However, if a police officer came to your rescue when someone tried to break into your house, you’ll think they walk on water.”
Does he fear for the safety of his dad and sister? “Dad can hold his own,” says Zachary David. ”[With Sarah,] the jail is a more controlled environment. Backup is right there whereas on the street, you don’t know the level of the threat or how far away backup is. I’m not too worried about her.”
Sarah, the youngest, is petite, more resembling a fitness model than a deputy sheriff jailer. In a job that most would envision a burly 6’6” man performing, she holds her own thanks to a regimen of competitive weightlifting and, like her brother, an enthusiasm for muay thai. “My life philosophy is no matter what you’re doing, always give everything you have to what you do, no matter what it is,” says Sarah.
A graduate of Miami University with a degree in business, she tried an office job for a short period before realizing the typical corporate environment was not for her. In her heart, she knew she wanted to do police work before she started college but thought she would outgrow the desire. She was wrong. Today, employed by the county for just under a year and enjoying her move into law enforcement, Sarah would like to follow the same path as her father and slip undercover. Not surprisingly, her mother is opposed.
You might be thinking right now, ‘Poor Mrs. Scott.’ Her husband and her children have careers that would cause the rest of us sleepless nights. She likely worries for their safety. I didn’t get to ask her, but somehow, I think she has the confidence in their abilities to believe it will all be OK. And, if it ever isn’t, Tammy Scott is a nurse. It makes sense that two unsung heroes – a nurse and police officer – would raise two more.