COLUMBIA — A 16-year-old has been sentenced to five days in a juvenile jail and 18 months of probation for threatening to shoot up his Catholic school in a group chat where he also sent racist videos.
The teen said in court Wednesday he was sorry and disgusted at himself for the pain he caused Cardinal Newman School in Columbia and the African American community.
The videos made over the summer showed the white teen shooting a box he says represents all black men. He used racial slurs several times.
The teen also threatened to shoot people at the school, which led to the charges filed against him in July.
The teen told Family Court Judge Robert Guess the videos were a poor attempt at humor but did not reflect the values he learned through his family or the Boy Scouts, where he achieved the highest Eagle Scout rank, according to a report in The State newspaper.
“When I think about the amount of people who have been hurt by my foolish actions, the Cardinal Newman community and the African American community specifically at Cardinal Newman, I feel terribly sorry, guilty and disgust at what I have done and how that has affected others,” he said.
The teen pleaded guilty to second-degree assault and unlawful communications in Family Court. His name wasn’t released because he is a juvenile.
The judge also ordered the teen to attend a wilderness camp to help with behavioral and social skills. The guns in his parents’ house must be given to relatives approved by the sheriff’s office.
The student had been charged under a new law that created the crime of "student threats." But the law set no actual punishment because the Legislature didn't specify a penalty.
Sen. Sandy Senn, R-Charleston, is pushing for legislation expanding who can be charged, defining tiered penalties based on the severity of the threat and calling for a mental health exam as part of the bond process. The bill, which passed the Senate 30-10 in April but has yet to get a hearing in the House, would criminalize a threat to kill or harm people at any public building, church or gathering place.
The existing crime, created by a single sentence legislators added to state law in May 2018, applies only to students of a K-12 school or college.
The addition was part of a compromise that revamped the century-old charge of disturbing schools, which had become a catch-all charge critics said criminalized teenage behavior. The law limited that crime so that only trespassing non-students, to include former students who have been expelled, can be charged with disturbing "normal operations" of a school. The new "student threats" charge, a small piece of the legislation Senn sponsored since 2017, was inserted during negotiations.
"The teen's arrest was only the second time the Richland County Sheriff's Department had charged someone with "student threats." In May, a 14-year-old alternative school student was charged following a cafeteria fight that involved no weapons other than fists.
How often it's been used statewide is unknown. The lack of a defined punishment in the law also makes it impossible for the state's Court Administration to track it.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.