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CCHS fight spawns violence, cause still under investigation

The cause of a large fight that quickly spilled from inside Colleton County High School’s gym and into the parking lot is still under investigation, with authorities beefing up security at all current sporting events.

The fight began at a Cougar basketball game on Jan. 31st. With only minutes left in the rival game with Summerville High, one of the two deputies on duty at the school event said he noticed the known gang members sitting in the upper-deck bleachers. Then, he heard that a fight had begun. Within seconds, the violence had escalated and overflowed into the parking lot. “I ran back up the stairs to find another exit out of the gym and during that time I tried to notify dispatch of what was going on and was unable to get out on my radio,” an incident report reads from one of the two deputies on scene. Two deputies were on scene at the game, a decision mandated by the Colleton County School District. Officials with the school district could not be reached for comment.

That deputy used an emergency button to radio for backup. Within two minutes, up to 10 additional units were on scene, according to the Colleton County Sheriffs’ Office. Deputies then helped with crowd control, and safely escorted Summerville and Colleton fans to their cars. This “panic button” is a new security feature on all deputies’ radios.

Investigators with the sheriff’s office are still investigating the cause of the large fight: no arrests have yet been made. Unfortunately, surveillance footage from the gym’s cameras is not available for deputies to review. According to the sheriff’s office, the school’s security system “loops” its security video footage every five days. This essentially erases footage after five days. In this case, the tapes were erased before they were handed over to authorities for review.

One of the deputies on scene at the fight was a School Resource Officer. As an SRO, he had already identified several of the students in the stands as gang members and was walking toward them when the fight broke out, according to a sheriff’s office incident report. “The deputy who identified those students at the game as being affiliated with gangs is a School Resource Officer,” said sheriff’s office Spokesman Sgt. Amye Stivender. “We cannot keep students out of events just because of a gang affiliation. If we knew someone was a gang member, and not just affiliated with that gang, then they would be turned away at the door,” she said. “And if any students are suspended from school, they would not be allowed to attend after-school activities.”

At Friday’s most recent game, six deputies were on duty. The district and the Colleton County Sheriff’s Office increased security as a result of the recent violence. As deputies continue to investigate this fight, authorities say any arrests will likely result in a disturbing school charge. “Since there were no reported injuries, and no victim has come forward, we cannot charge anyone with assault,” said Stivender.

Heather Walters (1678 Posts)