COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - More details are being released by the Richland County Sheriff's Department after two area students say they were approached by a male suspect and solicited for sex.
On Jan. 21, the department says a young male was walking to practice at Ridge View High School when he was approached by the suspect near the Lake Carolina neighborhood. The 16-year-old male told his parents about the encounter who then alerted authorities.
On Jan. 23, another student within the district reported seeing a suspicious person while walking home from the bus stop in The Summit neighborhood. The sheriff's department said this young male is much younger than the 16-year-old.
Both young men gave a similar description of the suspect according to the department. Both described an older African-American man driving a white, four-door SUV.
Following the second reported sighting, the Richland 2 School District sent out an email to parents of students at several of the district's schools in close proximity to where the incidents took place.
Nicole Rainwater, who has three children in the district, said she received the district's email Wednesday evening.
"At first I didn't think much about it because I hadn't heard anything from my kids," she said. "My elementary kids are picked up and brought straight home but my high schooler walks home from school. He knows not to talk to people and he tells me anytime things are weird."
Rainwater lives in The Highlands neighborhood near Ridge View High School. She says she's always felt comfortable with her kids being outside and playing in the yard.
"My kids are out playing until its dark and in the summer until after dark. We feel really safe around here, I don't like the idea of someone being around," Rainwater said.
The Richland County Sheriff's Department is urging not only parents, but the community to be aware of their surroundings even in their own backyard.
"We want the community to get involved and people to know who their neighbors are and what vehicles are around and if you're picking up your kids from the bus stop, take care of each other this is a great opportunity to do that," Cpt. Maria Yturria of the Richland County Sheriff's Department said.
The department is in its preliminary stages of its investigation and is currently looking into potential surveillance video in the areas the incidents were reported.
Additionally, the department said on Jan. 21 a young girl reported an old African American man exposed himself to her in the parking lot of the McDonalds on Decker Road.
Cpt. Yturria said the department hasn't confirmed if the suspect in this incident is the same as the two others, but said the young girl's description is similar to that of the two students approached.