A Murrells Inlet 17-year-old is facing charges following the burning of American flags Monday morning at St. James High School, said Horry County Police Lt. Robert Kegler.
Nicholas Ryan Newell is charged with third-degree arson, according to Horry County public records. He is expected to appear before a judge for a bail hearing 9 a.m. Tuesday.
Police arrested Newell around 1 p.m. Monday at a home on Indigo Creek Boulevard, Kegler said. About eight hours earlier school officials found burned flags outside the school's front doors and notified police, prompting an evacuation and arson investigation. Traffic near the school was backed up in several directions for much of the day as parents rushed to pick their children up from the school.
No one was injured. Police did not identify a motive for the incident Monday.
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Kegler said police were called to the school about 6:20 a.m. about the flags.
He said the evacuation was ordered and the Horry County Bomb Squad was called after officers watched surveillance footage that showed the suspect acting in a manner that concerned police . A suspicious box was found at the school, but deemed harmless early in the investigation, Kegler said.
By noon, the bomb squad had left the school. The students had been evacuated to St. James Middle School so they could be out of the sun and have lunch, according to the school district website.
Parents who picked up students from the middle school were required to show identification. Students who ride buses and were not picked up by parents were sent home later on buses from St. James Middle School.
District spokeswoman Teal Harding said school is expected to operate on the normal schedule Tuesday.
Students such as Savannah Fairchild used Twitter to talk about Monday's events. Fairchild said St. James isn't a bad school. She also didn't like the way the school handled the incident. ``The way this situation is being handled is very, very wrong,'' she tweeted. ``There's at least 450 parents outside. It's not fair to them or the kids.'' Parents expressed similar feelings but did not want to be interviewed by The Sun News. Damage to the school from the fire was minimal, Kegler said. He said glass at the front door had shattered as a result of the fire, also flower pots had been dragged toward the door and turned over.
The motive for the flag burnings was not known Monday evening.
Newell has no prior convictions, according to records with the State Law Enforcement Division. According to an Horry County records search he was charged in August with shoplifting, $2,000 or less, and has requested a jury trial. Kegler said police are investigating to see if Monday's incident is related to incidents involving several American flags that were reported stolen and damaged in the Indigo Creek subdivision about two weeks ago.
The burned flags did not come from St. James High School, said Kegler, who said surveillance footage shows the suspect removing flags from a backpack before burning them.
Ed Breslin, who lives in the Indigo Creek subdivision, said he and about 10 of his neighbors woke up the morning of Aug. 20 to find their flags had been vandalized overnight. ``I thought somebody should be held responsible for it. I thought it was such a disgrace to have a flag torn like that,'' Breslin said about the vandalism. ``We were woken up by a neighbor touring the neighborhood on a golf cart . . . and found our flag ripped like somebody hated that flag. It was torn and tied up.'' Breslin said he was upset someone would vandalize the flag. His was attached to a pole and the suspect could not remove it, but they tried to rip it down.