Sumter police have arrested two Sumter High School football players on criminal sexual conduct charges after a three-month investigation into an alleged incident last school year in a boy's locker room.
Deonte Lowery and Tiquan Colclough, both juniors at Sumter High, have been charged with criminal sexual conduct with a minor, second degree, as well as conspiracy charges after an investigation into an incident that allegedly occurred in February.
Police said they first learned of the alleged assault in May, when a 14-year-old boy told them two young men had held him down in the locker room while a third sexually assaulted him with an unknown object.
Lowery and Colclough were arrested late Tuesday afternoon, and Sumter Police Chief Russell Roark said while both suspects are only 16 years old they are being charged as adults. Both teens were released from custody on $20,000 surety bond. If convicted, they each would face a maximum penalty of 20 years in jail.
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Both Lowery and Colclough were suspended by the school district as of Wednesday. "Sumter School District takes the nature of this incident very seriously and is cooperating fully with law enforcement," said the district in a written statement.
The suspects have been suspended pending the outcome of a disciplinary hearing and are not permitted on school grounds and cannot participate in extra-curricular activities, the district said. This includes playing with the school's football team. Both young men played in Sumter High's opening season loss to Crestwood High School on Friday.
Sumter School District superintendent Dr. Frank Baker said Sumter High principal Dana Fall and head football coach Reggie Kennedy were meeting Wednesday, planning a strategy on how to address the issue with the football team. At the same time, Baker said, it had become clear that the team expected there to be disciplinary action.
"I think the word spread quickly among the football players and the general student body," Baker said. "The feedback I'm getting is that the team, as soon they found out, expected something to be done. They didn't really expect these kids to be playing. And that's a very good thing."
Roark said school officials were first briefed on the investigation into the alleged incident in May, and then again after the district's recent administrative changes on both school and district levels. However, Roark said, investigators did not identify any suspects until "very recently."
Sexual assault cases, Roark said, especially those involving a minor, can be very emotionally trying for the victim, making it necessary for investigations to proceed at the pace the victim is comfortable. "The time it has taken for this arrest is not out of the ordinary," Roark said. "Dealing with sexual assault victims, and investigating sexual assault cases can take a long time, particularly when juveniles are involved. It's a very traumatic experience. It takes time to work with the victim."
Roark said that unfortunately this case is not beyond the norm of what his department often has to deal with.
"It doesn't cease to amaze us what we as a society do to one another," Roark said. As law enforcement officers, "We have to balance our concerns for our victims and gathering the information to properly adjudicate the individuals that are accused of committing certain crimes."
The investigation continues and police say the third subject in the alleged incident has not been identified at this time. Investigators also ask that anyone with information about this incident contact either the Sumter Police Department at (803) 436-2717 or CrimeStoppers at (803) 436-2718 or 1-888-CRIME-SC.