Recovering Carrollton officer moves forward with forgiveness, faith, positivity

Sgt. Rob Holloway, now retired, said he forgives the man convicted in his shooting

Rob and Stephanie Holloway really appreciate the little things.

The former Carrollton police sergeant, now medically retired, and his wife, who works for the city’s school system, radiate peace and positivity. After Rob was shot in the head on April 12, 2021, during a chaotic car chase and gunbattle involving two men from Alabama, he and his family have been on a journey no one willingly chooses. But the Holloways have embraced the road to recovery, navigating its difficult contours with faith, grace, dignity and hard work.

As Rob recovered at the Shepherd Center in Atlanta from “having half his head ripped off,” as he put it, the couple learned to live without some of the basics. There was no TV in their room, Stephanie said in an exclusive interview with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, and their care team told them it was good to avoid the constant background noise to allow Rob’s brain to rest.

Instead, they read together, for enjoyment and as part of Rob’s therapy. They sat on their front porch and called out to neighbors walking by. They watched the world turn through their living room windows.

While their life is now peaceful, it’s also full. Stephanie has chronicled Rob’s path in detail, first on a Caring Bridge blog and then on a standalone website — and they’ve kept a packed calendar.

Both have given their testimony at a variety of churches and religious groups; received awards from Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp and Carrollton Mayor Betty Cason; and traveled to Florida, Tennessee and throughout Georgia to attend benefits for injured law enforcement officers.

Aaron Shelton walks out of the courtroom after being sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole.

Credit: Miguel Martinez

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Credit: Miguel Martinez

Last Thursday, the Holloways and many others involved in the April 2021 shooting faced another major milestone: the sentencing hearing for Aaron Shelton, who was convicted on more than 20 counts related to the rampage.

Shelton, 25, and his cousin, Pier Shelton, led officers from multiple agencies on a high-speed chase that devolved into a gunbattle in a residential neighborhood in Villa Rica. Pier Shelton was the gunman who shot Rob Holloway, as well as Villa Rica Officer Chase Gordy and Carroll County Deputy Jay Repetto. The gunman was shot and killed when Repetto and his partner returned fire.

Aaron Shelton did not fire a shot, but he was ultimately found responsible by a Carroll jury for his cousin’s death. He was convicted on counts of felony murder, aggravated assault, aggravated battery against a peace officer and other charges. At Thursday’s hearing, he was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole.

Each victim impact statement provided a snapshot into the different journeys faced by those affected.

Gordy, near the beginning of his career, said he was glad justice was being served and that he had moved past that night. Repetto, who remains on leave and said he is still working through the trauma of shooting Pier Shelton, is facing retirement. Looking Aaron Shelton in the eye in the courtroom and hearing the life sentence handed down felt like a weight was lifted, he said.

Villa Rica police Officer Chase Gordy (right) leaves the stand after providing his victim impact statement at the sentencing hearing for Aaron Shelton.

Credit: Miguel Martinez

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Credit: Miguel Martinez

Though they spoke early in the hearing, the Holloways’ statement stood out for its merciful tone. Instead of focusing on Rob’s injuries, they mourned the lost milestones they could not share with their son, Grady. The couple missed his senior honors ceremony, senior prom and high school graduation. A cruise they booked for their 20th wedding anniversary, already delayed once by the COVID-19 pandemic, was set aside again after the shooting.

On Thursday, Rob and Stephanie each looked at Aaron Shelton and said they forgave him. Though he was implacable for most of the proceeding, Shelton’s lawyer later said he thanked the Holloways.

After the hearing, the Holloways, Gordys and Repettos seemed buoyed by the conclusion of the trial and Shelton’s stern sentence. The three law enforcement officers, each representing different agencies and generations, said they expected their bond to last forever.

After the others left, Rob and Stephanie chatted about their daily lives. Rob is still engaged in both speech therapy and physical therapy nearly full time. Stephanie has returned to work in the Carrollton City School System, where she previously worked as a teacher, then administrator. She now works teacher’s hours and has the summer off.

The couple have relished the chance to help other law enforcement families dealing with similar situations. In addition to working with some larger organizations that provide assistance to injured officers, the Holloways have directly mentored and supported several families with whom they’ve developed close connections.

Sgt. Rob Holloway, who was shot in the head on April 12, 2021, speaks during the hearing of the sentence of Aaron Shelton.

Credit: Miguel Martinez

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Credit: Miguel Martinez

The Holloways are thankful for their life, they told the AJC, and when you speak with them in person, it’s easy to believe.

Rob, who was once uncertain if he would ever walk or talk again, smiled as he described the joy he finds in a sunny day or a cold glass of water. His deliberate way of speaking imparts every sentence with a note of wisdom, and he often shares aphorisms about living a more content, fulfilling life.

“Negativity breeds negativity,” Rob said. “You don’t know what someone’s going through in life. It’s better to share that smile and positivity with them. ... You could be the one that’s going to make the difference in their life.”

With plenty of input from their care team at the Shepherd Center and the medical staff on the cruise ship, Rob and Stephanie were finally able to take that anniversary cruise last year. Rob’s medical needs will always present a challenge, but the Holloways are working hard to navigate those hurdles. They say they have everything they need: faith, love, family, community and purpose.