COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) – A former high school student in South Carolina, whose racially-charged videos have drawn controversy around the nation, faces just one charge related to a school threat.
In a press conference Thursday, Richland County Sheriff Leon Lott said that although the student has been arrested for threatening Cardinal Newman High School, there is no hate crime law in the state.
Lott added that the school threat charge stems from a law that has only been in place since May 2018.
“As shocking and disturbing as the videos are, there is no state law against those videos and what people have seen in those videos,” Lott said, adding, “We’ve been working with the FBI, particularly Joint Terrorism Task Force. We’ve also consulted the United States Attorney’s Office and we continue to do that.”
The teenager withdrew from Cardinal Newman when the school discovered two racially-charged videos that appeared to show the student shooting at targets and referring to them as African Americans, The teen used racist language, saying he hates “n******s and they are stinky.”
Editor’s note: Video contains explicit and threatening language. Viewer discretion is advised.
The former student then later threatened to “shoot up” the school, the principal told parents in a letter.
The Richland County Sheriff’s Department arrested the 16-year-old on July 17. Police did not announce the arrest until Aug. 2. The school did not share news of the threats with parents until Aug. 4.
The delay in information is one factor that has inspired anger from the school community and residents of Columbia. Lott explained that the investigation was ongoing and that they felt once the arrest was made, there was no threat.
“When we release press releases about a school, it would be very simple,” he said, adding, “This was different. The investigation was continuing.”
The sheriff was outspoken about his opinion on hate crime laws, or lack thereof, in South Carolina.
“Our state has done a lot, we suffered a lot after the Emanuel 9,” said Lott. “I think we’ve made a lot of progress, but it is an absolute shame that this state doesn’t have a law against hate crime.
“And if this is not an example of why we should have a state law, I can’t imagine anything else that could happen.”
The sheriff said the investigation has been turned over to the Fifth Circuit Solicitor’s Office.