Four people are in jail on looting charges, accused of taking items placed on the edge of yards in flood ravaged neighborhoods of Sumter.
Christopher Welch, 33 and April Welch, 32, both of Manning Road; and Phillip Miles, 32, and Sherry Miles, 28, both of Mulberry Church Road, are each charged with looting. Christopher Welch is additionally charged with contempt of family court, and April Welch is also charged with being a fugitive from justice, according to a Sumter Police news release Sunday. The relationships between the accused was not clear from the news release.
All four are in the Sumter-Lee Regional Detention Center awaiting bond hearings.
At about 10:30 p.m. Saturday, a white van and black Ford Escape were seen by an officer in an area where homes were damaged during the recent flood. More officers were called, and after conducting a traffic stop, one of the suspects told police they were looking for items on the side of the road to take home.
Under South Carolina law, such activity is considered looting during a state of emergency, the news release said. Those convicted of this felony face a fine or imprisonment.
“This law is in place to protect the state’s citizens during some of the most challenging times like what we just experienced in Sumter,” Chief Russell F. Roark III said in the release. “We ask that we come to together as one to help our neighbors and to show respect for each other’s belongings as we work to recover.”
“We will charge and seek prosecution to the fullest extent of the law if we arrest anyone for looting,” he added.