RCSD: Cardinal Newman investigation closed, no further arrests to be made

Updated: Aug. 19, 2019 at 3:50 PM EDT
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COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - Following the arrest of a 16-year-old student who made threats against Cardinal Newman School, Richland County Sheriff Leon Lott said no further arrests will be made in this investigation.

“It’s just sad that we didn’t have young people come forward,” said Sheriff Leon Lott. “I’m happy, though, that we had a parent and that parent was a parent and checked their child’s electronic devices. They saw a video. They saw a threat and they did bring it to the attention of the authorities. That’s a parent."

According to Sheriff Lott, there were 13 teenagers involved in the text thread that was sent out on May 21. Lott said the youngest of the teenagers was 13 years old and most of the teenagers live within the Columbia area. Later, racially charged videos where the 16-year-old used racial slurs and used a gun to shoot a box of Jordan shoes were sent out.

“We do not know who all got the video,” Lott said. “We have not been able to identify who that’s been distributed to.”

Twelve of those teenagers were interviewed while one other teenager involved does not live in the Columbia area and the parents of that child would not let authorities conduct an interview. Lott said each of the teenagers’ schools have been contacted regarding this incident. However, Lott did not identify the teenagers.

“Every one of the juveniles that we have identified, we have contacted the principals of the schools that they attend,” Lott said. “There are numerous schools that these juveniles attend. Not all of them attended Cardinal Newman, but we’ve reached out and talked to all of the principals and let them know what their student was involved in and I cannot and will not identify the schools.”

Authorities said the student was arrested on July 17 after text messages from the student threatening to “shoot up” the school were discovered. Lott said the text messages were sent on May 21. Officials also discovered videos where the student called black people by racial slurs and used a gun to shoot a box of Jordan shoes.

Cardinal Newman officials said the student has initially expelled from the school but was withdrawn from the school. Administrators with the school also expelled a second student who was involved with the incident. However, there was no indication of what the second student did to be expelled.

Lott also emphasized that the 16-year-old who was arrested for threatening the school was not charged in connection with the videos that were made after consulting with the solicitor’s office. Because South Carolina does not have a hate crime law, Lott said his hands “were tied.”

Lott said investigators also determined a teenager shot one of the videos sent out to the other teenagers. However, no charges could be made regarding the recording or the racially charged messages in the video.

“There’s no hate crime law in South Carolina,” said Lott. “There’s absolutely nothing as a sheriff or local law enforcement officer that can be done when someone makes a video, says those things, and does what he did. We can’t do anything about that whatsoever.”

However, Lott pleaded with state legislators during the press conference to create a hate crime law for the state.

“Legislators, please do something,” Lott said. “This is not a Republican thing or a Democrat thing. This is just a thing that needs to be done because it’s the right thing. We need to take some action.”

Lott also said deputies have been hired by Cardinal Newman to be on campus on special duty in an effort to enhance security on the grounds. The Richland County Sheriff’s Department also conducted a threat assessment, which was requested by the administration at Cardinal Newman according to Lott, and determined there was no threat to the school.

Last week, Cardinal Newman principal Robert Loia informed parents in a letter of the steps the administration took to make sure student would be safe on campus once the school year begins.

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