News 12 at 6 o'clock / Sunday, Feb. 24, 2013
NORTH AUGUSTA, S.C. (WRDW) -- A 14-year-old who brought a gun to the First Baptist Church of North Augusta on Friday is now facing criminal charges.
Church leaders and parents are glad someone reported finding it when they did.
"We understand how tragic this could have been," said Lt. Tim Thornton of North Augusta Public Safety.
Thornton, the public information officer for the department, says, "Students did the right thing in notifying authorities when they saw this."
A loaded Glock 45 is what the teen brought to a church service. Thornton says this all seems to be a mistake.
"This is a 14-year-old teenager who accidentally brought a gun. He had no criminal intent, no malicious intent to hurt anybody. We have no evidence to support that," Thornton said.
The teenager told Public Safety he went hunting earlier in the day and forgot the gun was in his jacket. However, Thornton says he can understand how some folks, especially parents, find that hard to believe.
"I can easily agree with ya when you have a real loaded firearm, but I want to focus on the kids that did the right thing by reporting it, and I want to focus on the fact nothing did happen," Thornton said.
Pastor Doug Page of First Baptist Church agrees but says he also doesn't want anyone who visits his church to be afraid.
"We can't live in fear. We have to continue on with our lives and we have to do that. We have to be wise, cunning, but at the same time, we can't live in fear, we've got to live our lives," Page said.
Kevin Steele, the parent of a middle school student in the area, says even though he wants to be sensitive to the situation, the responsibility doesn't fall on the teen.
"Ultimately the parent is responsible for what his kid is doing," Steele said.
Despite, the close call, Thornton, who also goes to FBC of North Augusta, says he's comfortable with sending his kids to the church.
"There is not a safer place. We can't prevent everything that is going to happen, but if my kids want to go to locker room, I will have them there," Thorton said.
The name of the teen was not released because he is underage.
Thornton says the teen felt very remorseful and knew it was a mistake. He says the parents were also surprised when they arrived. The teen was released to his parents until he has court. He was charged with unlawful possession of a firearm.