Parents of children who swim at an East Side pool near where a man was shot to death last week are clamoring for more protection or better facilities from the city.
Rhakym Capers , 22, was shot to death last Tuesday in a dugout of King Park on America Street. Children were at swim practice in the pool next to the field when a half dozen shots rang out 3:50 p.m. Police were on the scene almost immediately, and two men were arrested.
Sequoia McKinnon, 17, of North Charleston and Kareem McPherson, 17, of Grove Street were charged with murder. They remain in the Charleston County jail.
About 25 parents of children whose swim team practices at the pool met with Police Chief Greg Mullen and recreation department staff Thursday night at the W.L. Stephens Aquatic Center in West Ashley.
Parents said they routinely see kids hanging out doing drug deals when they go to the pool.
“If my 6-year-old wants to swim for the team, he has to be exposed to this,” Laurie Elliott of Johns Island said. “Taking our children to the pool puts them at risk. It’s our job to minimize that risk, and we’re not doing that.”
Several parents asked Mullen to station a uniformed officer at the park during practice. He said about eight officers are in the area at all times to respond to calls, but having an officer stand at the park during swim practice is not feasible.
Stella Fruit, facilities superintendent with the city recreation department, reminded parents that the city supports the swim team, but children swim at the pool daily from 6 a.m. to 7 p.m.
She also said several changes have been made at the park since the shooting to make it safer. The changes include putting gates with locks across the dugout entrances to keep people from hanging out in them and moving the picnic table into view of the security cameras.
Staff met with the chief and six or seven top officers last week to talk about what else can be done to make the park safer, she said.
Mullen urged parents to call police when they suspect a crime is taking place, but reminded them that people have a right to stand around in the park. If officers are too aggressive, another group of parents will call a meeting accusing him of harassing their children, he said.
“There’s this little thing called the Constitution,” he said. “Unfortunately we are limited.”
One dad suggested that the parents hire an off-duty police officer during practice.
As the meeting progressed, the focus turned from the police department to elected officials. They’re the ones who control the purse strings to build another pool in safer area, several observed. None of them was present.
“I thought somebody from the city would be here,” Jody Huddleston of James Island said. “That’s the problem, not the police department. We’re afraid for our children, and we want help. It’s the city that should have been here. We need help from the city.”
One parent pointed out that the city just agreed to spend $5 million for drainage on a soccer field near the aquarium, and that money could have gone toward a new pool instead.
“We’re not where the tourists go,” a mother pointed out. “That’s the problem.”
Reach Dave Munday at 937-5553.
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