Columbia, SC – Officials said that multiple South Carolina law enforcement officers are in trouble for allowing a 13-year-old gun suspect to sneak a firearm into a juvenile detention facility on Tuesday.
The pre-teen boy and a family member were arrested on gun charges at the Columbiana Centre Mall on May 24, WLTX reported.
Columbia police said officers did an initial search of the boy and found him in possession of a loaded handgun.
South Carolina Department of Juvenile Justice (DJJ) Director Eden Hendrick said officers delivered the 13 year old to the Broad River Road facility hours later and transferred him into its custody, WLTX reported.
Director Hendrick said the juvenile was patted down, showered, and changed into facility clothing before he was released into the facility’s population.
It wasn’t until the next day that facility staff discovered the 13 year old had a handgun with him in the correctional institution, WLTX reported.
DJJ has faced scrutiny for both its working and living condition in recent months.
Director Hendrick, who recently took over DJJ, said she was working hard to make changes at the facility, WLTX reported.
South Carolina State Senator Katrina Shealy said the gun brought into the facility by the teen “raises concerns, the fact that it went from one location to another location. It passed through a lot of hoops before it got to DJJ. So, it’s a security issue.”
But Shealy said she was confident the new director of DJJ would turn the agency around, WLTX reported.
“Are there going to be difficulties? Yes, because you can’t go in overnight and make something that was a total train wreck, you know, stand straight back up and just start chugging along,” the lawmaker explained.
Columbia police officials called the lack of a thorough search by its officers “unacceptable” and said the arresting officers have been placed on administrative duty pending the completion of additional training, WLTX reported.
Director Hendrick said DJJ would revamp its intake, search, and safety procedures.
She said the employees who were involved in processing the armed 13 year old have been suspended, WLTX reported.
South Carolina Governor Henry McMaster’s office released a statement expressing concern about the incident but support for Director Hendrick.
“The governor’s office is aware of the incident,” the statement read. “Obviously, it’s an unacceptable mistake, but Governor McMaster is confident that Director Hendrick will make the appropriate changes at the agency – and to work with the agency’s law enforcement partners – to ensure that nothing like this happens again.”