Officials working to track down more teens involved in rampage

Charleston police and the Solicitor’s Office vowed to track down the teens who went on a rampage and terrorized downtown residents early Sunday.

“Investigators are still trying to identify suspects in this incident,” police spokesman Charles Francis said Wednesday. He urged anyone with information to call investigators.

He added that they are collecting and analyzing all videos and looking for additional images that may be available. He encouraged anyone with a video to send it to police.

“This is important to the investigation as the victims and witnesses were only able to provide limited information due to the spontaneous nature of the event,” Francis said.

It’s believed the youths came from a teen party at the YWCA on Coming Street. One of the incident reports said police were called to the facility about 12:30 a.m.

A large crowd had just left the facility, and police responded to the scene because of a disturbance, Francis said. Witnesses said most attendees were around 16 years old and that the police dispersed the crowd.

“There wasn’t any information provided to the officers on scene that parents were on their way to pick up the individuals who attended the private event,” Francis said. “They were walking away from the facility and were in the street.”

Ninth Circuit Solicitor Scarlett Wilson said she is working with police and taking the investigation seriously.

“The mob statute gives the Solicitor additional tools (subpoena power and authority to depose under oath) that law enforcement does not have and which may prove useful to the investigation,” she said in an email Wednesday. “Chief Mullen and I are in touch and will work closely together to ensure that all investigative avenues are exhausted so that we can bring these criminals to justice.”

State law addresses mob violence under “lynching.” A “mob” is defined as two or more people who act together for the premeditated purpose of committing an act of violence.

The statute instructs law enforcement and the solicitor in the jurisdiction to “act as speedily as possible to apprehend and identify the members of the mob and bring them to trial.”

The YWCA of Greater Charleston rents its auditorium to outside groups. The nonprofit released a statement Wednesday.

“The unfortunate events of Saturday night/Sunday morning followed a private invitation-only event at our building,” said Garcia Williams, interim executive director. “The party who rented the facility followed all required safety protocols regarding the rental including having security on hand to ensure a safe experience at the Y. The security personnel were able to close the party without incident occurring on our property.”

Meanwhile, College of Charleston students were complaining on social media that officials should have sent out a warning for them to stay away from the area after chaos broke out at Coming and Vanderhorst streets. Many students live in the area.

“It has been trending on Yik Yak,” a student who asked not to be identified said in an email. “People seem pretty annoyed with the way CofC’s notifications have been going this semester. They sent out prior emails to let people know about moped thefts and assaults off campus in the past. This seems way worse (gun to someone’s head, assaults, robberies, multiple 911 calls with details about bleeding people, etc.).”

College spokesman Mike Robertson gave three reasons why the college did not send out an alert:

The incident did not occur on campus.

There was no ongoing threat to the campus community and the teens were going away from the college.

The college sends out community notices to campus for crimes such as aggravated assault and robbery. This incident did not meet that standard.

“At the time of the incident, law enforcement deemed the incident as simple assault,” he said.

College police were called out to assist Charleston police, he said.

The college came under fire in February for a false alarm about a bomb threat followed by what students called a lack of communication while the center of the campus was shut down. Officials said they fixed a glitch in the system that caused the false alarm and promised to communicate more in the future.

The Medical University of South Carolina, which is three blocks away, sent out a warning at 2:10 a.m. Sunday saying, “Please be advised there has been a report of 15 black males assaulting and robbing subjects walking near MUSC campus area.”

As many as 60 teens were reported causing trouble but apparently broke up into splinter groups and spread out. All the teens causing trouble were black and all but one of the victims were white, raising the question whether the attacks were racially motivated.

Police haven’t yet determined a motive for those attacks, Francis said.

Melissa Boughton contributed to this story.