Deputies seized a cache of guns from the home of a 16-year-old former Cardinal Newman student last month when they arrested him after the youth said in videos that he hated black people and later threatened to “shoot up the school,’’ according to the Richland County Sheriff’s Department.
The guns were taken as part of the Sheriff’s Department’s investigation of the 16-year-old’s threats, spokeswoman Cynthia Roldan said Tuesday.
Multiple guns were confiscated, including semi-automatic weapons, pistols and at least one shotgun, she said. Deputies confiscated the guns July 17, Roldan said.
“We seized all the firearms in the house,’’ she said.
The acknowledgment that guns were taken from the teenager’s Columbia home comes amid rising concerns about the racist videos and threat the teen made against Cardinal Newman, a Catholic school of more than 500 students in northeast Richland County. Some parents told Cardinal Newman administrators this week that they feared for their children’s safety.
Authorities have not said whether the teenager in the videos is in jail, being detained at home or if he is free. They also have not said who shot the videos and whether others are under investigation.
While the disclosure that guns were seized from the teen’s home might ease some people’s minds, several African American leaders expressed concern Tuesday at the youngster’s threat — particularly at a time of rising racial tension in the United States.
J.T. McLawhorn, who heads the Columbia Urban League, said the public should not “dismiss or minimize the repugnant video’’ that surfaced last weekend. McLawhorn warned that the nation is going through a period where some people have acted on hateful feelings they have toward others.
“We are in an environment where certain actors feel emboldened to move beyond hate-filled rhetoric to violence,’’ McLawhorn said in a news release. “The hate-filled rhetoric from (the) darkest corners of the web to the highest office in the land, coupled with easy access to automatic guns, raises the risk of mass violence.”
The student, who has not been named by authorities because he is a juvenile, was shown in videos calling black people by a derogatory term and shooting targets he said represented African Americans, The State reported Friday. In one video, he used a rifle to fire at a box of sneakers he said were popular with blacks. He said he hated black people.
“If you notice over there is a box of Jordans, the favorite pair of shoes for a black man,’’ the 16-year-old says, standing in a wooded area. “I’m going to show you what I think of a black man.’’ The youth then fires at least three shots from the rifle at the box of shoes and uses a racially offensive term to describe black people.
In a series of later texts that included a video, the teenager threatened a shooting at the school, according to the Sheriff’s Department. It remains unclear if the threat was made in the text message or the accompanying video, but the threat was enough to prompt the Sheriff’s Department to arrest him on a charge of making student threats.
McLawhorn’s statement said the racist videos and threats of violence at Cardinal Newman brought back memories of Dylann Roof, a troubled white man from Columbia who killed nine black people in a Charleston church several years ago. Roof made similar threats before carrying out the massacre, McLawhorn said.
Last weekend, gunmen in Texas and Ohio carried out mass shootings.
“These threats are dangerous in themselves, and also inspire copycats who will carry out acts of domestic terrorism,’’ his statement said.
In South Carolina, the Sheriff’s Department arrested the teenager in July after learning of the videos through Cardinal Newman School, officials have said. Some of the videos were distributed on text chains to a handful of students in May, but did not surface until July 13, the school and authorities say.
State Sen. Mia McLeod, D-Richland, called the Cardinal Newman student’s actions on video “terrifying and vile.’’ She said she takes his threats to hurt people seriously.
““No member of our community should be frightened when they go to a movie, supermarket, concert, church, mosque, synagogue, or school,’’ McLeod, whose district includes Cardinal Newman, said in a statement.
Meanwhile, the Episcopal Diocese of Upper South Carolina, which said the 16-year-old is a member of that faith, said it had been in contact with the clergy of the congregation where he worships. The diocese issued a statement condemning the youth’s actions, saying “we must and we do stand in unflinching solidarity with all those whose lives are under threat again, because of ethnicity and race.’’ But the statement from the Rt. Rev. Andrew Waldo said the church also felt love for the teen and his family, which had “its world irretrievably turned upside down.’’