CLEMSON – The month of June began with Howard's Rock broken in pieces and a chunk stolen by mysterious late-night visitors. It ends with the apprehension of a teenager whom Clemson University police overwhelmingly hold responsible.
Micah Rogers, 18, of Pisgah Forest, N.C., was arrested, arraigned and released Friday after police located his vehicle, with the assistance of tips and leads stemming from surveillance photos and videos released eight days prior.
“We do have a witness that identified him being there,” Capt. Eric Hendricks said. “We know we have the man responsible that damaged the rock that night.”
Rogers has been charged with one felony: malicious injury to personal property valued at more than $2,000, but less than $10,000; and one misdemeanor: trespassing and unlawful entry into enclosed places. The felony is punishable by up to five years in prison at the court's discretion, while the misdemeanor means a $200 fine or 30 days in jail if convicted.
Rogers appeared in Clemson University Municipal Court Friday morning and was released on $5,470 bail. A court date was not released.
Several parts of the investigation are active and ongoing, including the search for at least two other suspects.
Social media was abuzz during the past two weeks presuming mischief by a rival fan, perhaps a South Carolina supporter. However, that theory was put to rest Friday.
Rogers' white 1993 Ford F-250 truck is adorned with a Clemson front car tag and a Tiger Paw sticker on the back window, and police observed Clemson paraphernalia in his home.
“So I'll make you draw your own conclusions from that,” Hendricks said. “It is imperative the system do its work, and I do ask with the high passion behind it, that the community will allow the system to handle it.”
Rogers' Facebook page was deactivated Friday afternoon. His truck was pictured, with the Clemson Tiger Paw on the front car tag, in his cover photo.
It is believed Rogers recently graduated from and might have played football for Brevard High School, 50 miles north of Clemson. Phone calls to the school were not answered during this summer session.
Howard's Rock has stood on its pedestal above Memorial Stadium for 47 years. One of the most famed traditions in college football, Clemson coaches and players rub the rock before descending The Hill as a pregame ritual.
The broken portion of the rock - about 15 percent of the original artifact - has not been recovered. Clemson athletic director Dan Radakovich wouldn't speculate on whether the entire rock could be reconstructed.
“There are increased security measures associated with the rock,” Radakovich said. “I'm not at liberty to talk about those, and will not.”
Hendricks did not disclose specifics of Rogers' interview with police, who are uncertain if Rogers had any affiliation with Clemson, other than his memorabilia.
“To me, it's satisfying, just because the rock is a huge tradition for Clemson,” said rising senior Hannah Cash of Spartanburg, a fervent football fan of the Tigers. “It really hurts me to hear when someone vandalizes the rock – I don't know why you'd want to do it, especially if it was a Clemson fan, I don't understand why you'd want to hurt the rock.”
Cash, majoring in bioengineering and premed, and her sister each attend Clemson, but their parents are South Carolina grads.
“It is such a big rivalry, but I don't ever want it to get to the point where it's nasty or horrible,” Cash said. “I don't want Clemson or South Carolina become un-classy and vandalizes something that's important to the university, because we should respect each other and that's part of our core values.”
On June 20, campus cops released a still photograph and two videos of a white pickup truck approaching and departing the scene on the east side of Memorial Stadium, with three individuals appearing to get out of the truck at 11:22 p.m. on Sunday, June 2 and returning at 11:33 p.m.
Upon the video/photograph release, the university announced a $5,000 reward for information leading to an arrest and conviction of vandals — money raised through private funding by the athletic department. Radakovich reiterated Friday the reward would be doled out to the unnamed witness in the event of a conviction.
“It's very important, because it shows the system works,” Radakovich said. “If you do commit a crime such as this, there's great police work out there that will go out and make you pay.”