COLOMBIA, South Carolina — A 13-year-old arrested for having a loaded gun at a South Carolina mall apparently smuggled a second loaded gun into the establishment he was taken to, authorities said.
A spokesperson for the Columbia Police Department called the incident “a flagrant failure on many levels,” WLTX-TV reported.
It started Tuesday when the boy and a relative were arrested for having firearms at Columbiana Center Mall. Police said officers conducted an initial search of the boy and confiscated a loaded 9mm handgun, but missed another weapon he was hiding.
Juvenile Justice Department director Eden Hendrick told the TV station that when the teenager was transferred into their custody hours later, he was patted down, showered and dressed in the facility’s clothes , but the second weapon was not detected. It wasn’t until the next day that the second weapon was discovered and later recovered by facility staff, Hendrick said.
In a statement to WLTX, Columbia police called the lack of a thorough search by officers “unacceptable” and a risk to public safety. The department says officers who missed the weapon were placed on administrative duty pending completion of training programs.
“This incident represents a gross failure on many levels, including a violation of policy and procedure,” the police department said in a statement. “This lack of a thorough search is unacceptable and puts the safety of the public and officers at risk.”
Hendrick also said the Department of Juvenile Justice will revamp its admissions process and all staff will be retrained on admission, search and other security procedures. She added that employees involved in the initial search have been suspended.
In addition to the teenager, police also arrested La’Kenyatta Moore-Rhodes, 40. Police said after reviewing the surveillance video, investigators found that Moore-Rhodes originally had the gun and gave it to the teenager.
Police charged the teen with unlawful possession of a firearm by a minor, unlawful carrying of a firearm and pointing and presenting a firearm, the state reported. Moore-Rhodes was charged with unlawfully carrying, pointing and presenting a firearm and contributing to the delinquency of a minor, the newspaper reported.
It was unclear whether any of the suspects had an attorney who could comment for them.