State Law Enforcement Division officers are questioning a number of teens, including middle-schoolers, and collecting DNA samples from them in connection with last week’s shooting of a Berkeley County sheriff’s deputy, authorities said. Agents have been talking to as many as 20 teenagers of different ages with the permission of their parents or guardians, according to SLED spokesman Thom Berry.
He confirmed some middle school students at Sedgefield Middle School in Goose Creek were questioned Wednesday, though it is unclear how many students were questioned or for how long and what other schools might be involved.
There are about 1,100 students at Sedgefield in grades 6-8.
Berry said agents are asking for DNA from the teens to eliminate them as suspects in the case, but he would not confirm whether any of them are. He said if any of the samples test negative, they will be destroyed.
Information and tips in the case have led agents to those they are speaking with, according to Berry. He did not know Wednesday how many tips had come through the phone lines open to the public. “We’ll go where the investigation takes us,” he said, adding that to his knowledge everyone was cooperating.
Elder James Johnson, president of the local chapter of the National Action Network, said he and the parents of children questioned at Sedgefield plan to hold a press conference Thursday morning at the school. He said that parents consent was not sought.
Berkeley County sheriff’s Lt. Will Rogers was shot multiple times about 10:30 p.m. Thursday by a masked man outside the Exxon gas station at U.S. Highway 52 and Cypress Gardens Road near Moncks Corner. He remains in critical condition at Medical University Hospital.
The shooter then carjacked a black Hyundai Santa Fe and fled the scene. The SUV was found wrecked and abandoned near Bushy Park two hours after the gunfire. More than 200 officers from local, state and federal law enforcement agencies took part in a search after the shooting, but efforts to find the suspect came up short.
A sketch of a person of interest in the case released Saturday by SLED depicts a dark-haired male with a reddish tint in his hair toward his forehead. A witness who came forward described him as a black male, between 5 feet 10 inches and 5 feet 11 inches, and 150 to 170 pounds, Berry previously said.
The reward for information leading to the apprehension of the suspect has reached $11,000, acting Berkeley County Sheriff Butch Henerey announced Tuesday. Rogers’ family also spoke out for the first time Tuesday and pleaded for the community to help them find the shooter.
“He left our father there to die, while victimizing another person by pointing a gun at him and taking his vehicle,” said Jamie Rogers Wyatt, who was emotional. “I say this so the public knows exactly whom we are dealing with and to ask again for help.”
Rogers, 54, of Summerville, has been with the Sheriff’s Office since 1991 and was one of 15 people who recently ran for sheriff of the county, but he did not advance out of last month’s primary. Before that, he spent a year with the Moncks Corner Police Department. He was with the S.C. Highway Patrol from 1984 to 1990. He served in the Marines from 1980 to 1984.
The Berkeley County Sheriff’s Office could not immediately be reached for comment Wednesday.
Reach Melissa Boughton at 937-5594 or at Twitter.com/mboughton.