2 juveniles who had guns at Rock Hill schools have prior gun charges, officials say

Two juveniles charged with violations related to weapons seized last week from Rock Hill schools were already on probation for prior weapons violations, according to court testimony Tuesday.

The two are among three students charged last week after guns were found on consecutive days at South Pointe and Rock Hill high schools, and at Dutchman Creek Middle School. All three schools are in the Rock Hill School District.

No one was injured in any of the three incidents and no shots were fired.

The student charged in connection with the Aug. 29 incident at South Pointe High School had been released from juvenile detention on probation in June after spending seven months in custody for assault and a weapons violation, testimony showed Tuesday in York County Family Court. .

The juvenile who was a South Pointe student is 16 years old, officials said.

The Dutchman Creek Middle School student charged Aug. 30 with weapons violations, including allegedly assaulting another student with a gun, was also on probation from a previous gun incident in the Charleston area, attorneys in the case said in court Tuesday.

The juvenile who was a student at Dutchman Creek is 14 years old.

Both juveniles were taken to the SC Department of Juvenile Justice last week.

Both will remain in custody as the cases proceed, Family Court Judge Coreen Khoury ruled Tuesday. All three defendants in the unrelated cases are men. The Herald is not naming the minors because of their ages.

The third incident

On Aug. 31, a student at Rock Hill High School had a gun in a vehicle in the parking lot, York County Sheriff’s Office deputies said. That student, age 16, walked off campus and was charged two days later with two weapons violations, said Trent Farris, a spokesman for the sheriff’s office.

The student was released into the custody of his parents, Farris said.

The case involving the student and the gun at Rock Hill High was not involved in Tuesday’s court hearings.

“Anxiety Earthquake”

The seizure of guns at Rock Hill schools on back-to-back days last week created “an earthquake of concern in our community” that has sent waves of fear among students, parents and the public, York County’s top prosecutor said in court Tuesday.

Sixteenth Circuit Solicitor Kevin Brackett told Khoury during the detention hearings that last week’s gun seizures caused an outpouring of public concern.

“Guns in schools are a national crisis,” Brackett said Tuesday. “The consequences are absolutely horrific…Guns in schools are a huge concern and this kind of behavior is simply unacceptable.”

Brackett and Senior Assistant Solicitor Whitney Payne argued that the two students in court Tuesday should remain in the custody of the SC Juvenile Division to protect public safety based on their prior juvenile records.

The attorney for both juveniles, 16th Circuit Assistant Public Defender Stacey Coleman, said each juvenile should be released pending further court action.

Coleman said the younger of the two had the gun in high school because of threats from another student who has an older brother involved in gang activity.

“Fear motivated this behavior,” Coleman told the court.

Coleman also said she, as a parent, and the community are thankful no one was hurt.

Khoury said police had probable cause to arrest both juveniles and that both should remain in custody pending future court hearings.

Student attendance dropped after gun crimes

The Rock Hill Police Department school resource officers involved in the South Pointe and Dutchman Creek cases — Dusty Burton and Daniel Shealy — testified in court Tuesday.

One of the weapons — the one found at South Pointe — was a loaded 9mm handgun. The other was a handgun found in the bathroom at Dutchman Creek that had a laser sight attached, police said.

It remains unclear how the juveniles obtained the weapons.

Brackett told the court that gun incidents in schools caused about a 25 percent drop in attendance.

“Teachers and students are yelling,” Brackett said.

Brackett said after court that even as police and prosecutors and school officials work on the gun problem, parents need to be more aware of their children’s actions.

“We’re involved after the fact,” Brackett said after court. “The fear in this community has already permeated … How does a kid go to school with a 9mm handgun?”

Rock Hill School Principal Tommy Schmolze attended both court hearings Tuesday but spoke in court.

After court, Schmolze confirmed attendance was down across the district because of the three gun incidents. Schmolze said the gun problem isn’t just in schools, it’s a community problem.

“This fear is a community fear,” Schmolze said.

Rock Hill Schools has approximately 17,000 students on 24 campuses.

“These bad decisions affect the whole culture,” Schmolze told The Herald in an interview after court. “These were stopped before something horrible happened.”

Schmolze said the district has initiated random searches and other safety and security measures, but more needs to be done.

“Kids can’t learn if they don’t feel safe,” Schmolze said.

Schmolze said the school district’s policy is to seek a calendar-year suspension for any student with a gun at school.

Rock Hill Schools has resource officers from both the Rock Hill Police Department and the Sheriff’s Office, depending on whether the school is within the city limits.

York County Sheriff Kevin Tolson was also in court Tuesday but did not speak. Afterwards, Tolson said law enforcement will continue to work with the public and schools to combat the problem of guns in schools.

“It’s unfortunate that students and teachers are dealing with these issues,” Tolson said. “Rest assured that school safety is a top priority and it will take a collaborative effort between schools, law enforcement and the community to effectively address these issues.”

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