A South Carolina sheriff said Thursday that the state needs a hate crime law after his deputies couldn’t initially charge a 16-year-old Catholic school student who made videos using racial slurs and shooting a box that he said represented black people.
The teen was charged four days later with making student threats after a third video surfaced of him threatening to shoot people at Cardinal Newman school in Columbia, Richland County Sheriff Leon Lott said.
“It’s an absolute shame this state does not have a law against hate crimes,” Lott said. “Our legislators have got to take some action. Look at the turmoil these videos have created in the community.”
South Carolina, Georgia, Wyoming and Arkansas are the only states without official hate crime laws.
The Cardinal Newman student made the two racist videos in May a few weeks before the end of the year at the $1,000-a-month private school and sent to other students on a group text, deputies said.
They weren’t given to school officials and turned over to sheriff’s investigators until July 13, Lott said.
The sheriff said investigators were disgusted by the videos, which show the teen using at least two different guns to fire more than two dozen shots into a box that he says represents all black men. He uses a racial slur several times in the videos and says black people “are stinky and they just suck.”
The teen’s name has not been released because he is a minor.
Deputies took about 20 guns from the teen’s home following his arrest, said Lott, who wouldn’t comment if officers took anything else from the home.
Typically in these cases, juveniles are released back to their parents after their arrests. But Lott said in this case, his investigators decided to keep the teen in jail until prosecutors or a judge could consider the case. The sheriff said he couldn’t legally give any additional details about why the case was handled this way.
Prosecutors in the 5th Circuit Solicitor’s Office didn’t respond to an email checking on the teen’s status or whether he could be tried as an adult.
There is a federal hate crime law and Donald Wood, the FBI Supervisory Special Agent in South Carolina, said federal agents are investigating the videos. He wouldn’t give any other details.
Parents also were angry to learn other teens saw the videos and did not report them. Cardinal Newman administrators met with the student’s parents the Monday after the videos were sent to them and told them they were going to expel him. The teen’s parents withdrew him from school first.
Some lawmakers in South Carolina have been pushing especially hard for a state law after the 2015 racist killings of nine black members of a Charleston church by a man who said he hated black people.
A bill was introduced again this year to create a bias statute in South Carolina, which would carry two to 15 years in prison if someone assaulted, intimidated and threatened someone because of their race, religion, sex, age, national origin, sexual orientation or homelessness.
The bill only made it through a subcommittee. It will be in the House Judiciary Committee when the 2020 session starts in January.
Cardinal Newman parents are meeting with school officials Thursday night. The school promises to create programs to make sure students understand they have to treat everyone with dignity and respect.