LEXINGTON COUNTY SC — Increased tensions in the Dutch Fork-Lexington high school rivalry prompted principals and school resource officers at both schools to request more security in advance of Monday night’s basketball game.
About a dozen law enforcement officers – twice the usual number – kept watch at Lexington High, school officials said, as the two teams met for the second time this season.
Officials from both schools conferred before Monday’s game and agreed the extra security was warranted, Lexington 1 spokeswoman Mary Beth Hill said Tuesday. It was prompted in part by alleged flare-ups last month during the teams’ first match, which Richland County Sheriff Leon Lott described as “trash talking.”
While there were no problems at the school during Monday’s game, the bad feelings apparently led to the fatal stabbing later that night of Dutch Fork student and football player DaVon Nathaniel-Capers outside a Lexington restaurant, officials said. Kierin Marcellus Dennis, 18, a 2013 Lexington High graduate, has been charged with murder.
“It’s so unfortunate that a high school rivalry gets to that point,” Lexington Mayor Steve MacDougall said Tuesday after being briefed on the incident.
The slaying prompted Lexington County Sheriff James Metts on Tuesday to promise a look at revamping security procedures at school sports events.
“We will revisit this,” he said, without specifying what steps are possible.
At Monday’s game, fans of both schools who brought inflammatory signs were told not to display them and most complied, Hill said.
Metts said school officials and Lexington County deputies received “intel” there could be trouble at the game Monday.
It’s customary to “beef up security when teams of any kind play an arch-rival,” Hill said. “We know that emotions will run high.”
Extra officers were added as a deterrent, Metts said.
“It was way more than we normally have,” he said. “As a result of that, we probably stopped anything that might have happened. Anytime it seems like we might have problems, that is what we do.”
That number included two Richland County sheriff’s deputies who were traveling with the Dutch Fork squad for team security, Metts said. One deputy was a coach and was in plainclothes while the other was in uniform.
Security at the game was “appropriate and effective,” Lexington-Richland 5 spokesman Mark Bounds said Tuesday.
Generally, law enforcement officials say, school officials request a certain number ofofficers to be at games and other school events. School resource officers also make recommendations.
Metts said his deputies did not notify Lexington town police of potential postgame problems, because no trouble erupted on school grounds. The fatal stabbing occurred in a parking lot next to a Cook-Out restaurant, a popular hangout for students.
“If we had had a problem, yes, we would have notified other jurisdictions,” he said.
Rowdiness at high school sports events, unfortunately, is common, Lott said. It’s up to law enforcement to maintain order at the game and in the parking lot, he said.
But after the game, there’s no way to provide security when students leave school, he said.
“If there are tensions between two teams, then law enforcement is usually there where the two teams are,” Lott said. “You can’t follow the fans when the game’s over to where they go. That’s just impossible.”
Dutch Fork High’s basketball team played again Tuesday, after DaVon Nathaniel-Capers’ family said their son “would not have wanted it another way,” Bounds said.
Students planned a moment of silence to commemorate him, Bounds said.
Extra deputies were assigned to the game as a precaution, Lott said.
Lexington-Richland 5 officials declined to say Tuesday whether the stabbing would lead to more security at all games their teams play.
“We assess each situation, activity and event and provide necessary security and supervision,” Bounds said.