Search yields gun at school football game in Richmond County

Published: Aug. 29, 2022 at 3:32 PM EDT|Updated: Aug. 29, 2022 at 6:28 PM EDT
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AUGUSTA, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) - Authorities uncovered someone with a handgun Friday night at the Laney-Hephzibah football game, according to the Richmond County School System.

The incident was revealed Monday when the school district made public all the letters it had sent home to parents this school year regarding school safety incidents.

The person with the gun wasn’t a student of with Hephzibah or Laney, the district told parents.

“Officers received reports that someone attending the game had a weapon,” the district told parents. “School Safety and Security Officers approached the person in question and located a loaded 9 mm handgun during a search.”

The person with the gun was taken into custody, the district said.

The incident came as the school districts in Aiken and McDuffie counties enact new restrictions at athletic events that could help prevent such incidents.

Also revealed in the letters to Richmond County parents:

  • On Aug. 18, a student brought a handgun to Westside High School. District officials had gotten word that a student might bring a weapon and intercepted the student. During the course of the investigation, another student was found to have brought a handgun to school. No students or staff were injured.
  • On Monday, a student was found to be in possession of a pocketknife at Westside High School. The incident is being addressed based upon applicable state laws and the district code of student conduct and discipline.
  • Last Wednesday, a student brought an electric stun device to Josey High School. It accidentally sounded off in the student’s belongings, alerting the teacher. No students or staff were harmed.
  • On Monday morning, Richmond County deputies came to Tutt Middle School to pick up a student for questioning. The district said it was regarding “community-related activities,” apparently indicating the matter wasn’t related to school.
  • On Friday, a Hephzibah Middle School student was observed playing with a box cutter on a bus during the morning.
  • On Aug. 10, a Pine Hill Middle School student brought a bullet and rounded-tip butterfly trainer knife to school. The student showed the items to other students, who reported the incident to a teacher.
  • On Wednesday, a student brought a pocket tool with a small knife blade to Belair K-8 School. The student showed the item to other students, who reported the incident to a teacher.

The revelations come as residents of CSRA communities large and small worry about students’ safety.

The problem has even come to the small town of Wrens, where police warn that they’ve seen an increase in fights among youths over the past week.

“The majority of those involved in these fights have been juveniles,” Police Chief Joe Maynard said in a statement on Saturday. “We are working with school officials and the Department of Juvenile Justice to identify all parties involved.”

As a result of a fight early last week in Wrens, two people were arrested on felony charges after an altercation with an officer and an attempt by one suspect to pull a gun from his backpack, police said. Two guns and a “large amount drugs” were found in their possession, police said.

“We are asking parents to please parent and those influential to please influence these kids ASAP before this matter turns worse,” Maynard wrote.

The Columbia County School System has been open about threats and arrests so far this year.

On Friday, the district said a Grovetown Middle School student was detained and charged with terroristic threats and acts. The district said the youth threatened to shoot the school and another student.

“All responsible parties will also be held accountable according to the Columbia County School District Code of Conduct,” the district said in a statement. “Threats of any nature, especially against a school or students and staff, are not acceptable and will not be tolerated. We encourage parents to please speak to your children about the consequences of fake threats. Safety of students and staff is a top priority.”

Some other incidents this school year have also raised alarm in Columbia County. On Thursday, a Columbia Middle School student brought a personal-defense shock device, officials said. On Aug. 22, a Lakeside Middle School student was detained on suspicion of threatening gun violence. And on Aug. 4, a Greenbrier High School student was arrested after a gun was found in their backpack, officials said.

Safety concerns have led to changes that began Friday at athletic gatherings in at least two local school districts.

In Aiken County, school officials said last week that no conventional handbags or backpacks would would be allowed at sports events. Only clear bags of certain dimensions are allowed.

And in McDuffie County last week, school officials said students under 16 will need to be accompanied by an adult to attend a home football game.

“In addition, students are expected to be seated unless they are in line for concessions or visiting the restroom,” according to McDuffie County Superintendent Dr. Mychele Rhodes. “Standing is prohibited in aisles and other areas that present safety issues.”