South Carolina

Video, other records in Townville Elementary shooting being withheld

A law enforcement officer stands at Townville Elementary School Sept. 28 after responding to a shooting.
A law enforcement officer stands at Townville Elementary School Sept. 28 after responding to a shooting.

Video footage and other records related to the Townville Elementary School shooting are being kept out of public view.

The Anderson County Sheriff's Office denied this week the Independent Mail's request for several records, including video footage from the school and supplemental reports filed by the law enforcement agency.

Lt. Sheila Cole of the Sheriff's Office said in an email that the video footage is exempt from release under South Carolina law. The section of the law Cole cited states that a public body may, but is not required to, exempt from disclosure "information of a personal nature where the public disclosure thereof would constitute unreasonable invasion of personal privacy."

The law also says: "This provision must not be interpreted to restrict access by the public and press to information contained in public records."

Jay Bender, an attorney for the South Carolina Press Association, said Wednesday that the privacy exemption the Sheriff's Office cited "is the sketchiest exemption claimed."

"When you get involved in an event of public interest, you lose privacy," Bender said. "A school shooting is certainly an event of public interest."

The shooting in Townville has gaining national and international attention.

Jesse Osborne, 14, is charged in the shooting. The teen is accused of killing his father, 47-year-old Jeffrey Osborne, in their Townville home Sept. 28, then taking his truck to the school about 3 miles away. Investigators say the teen opened fire at the school, wounding two 6-year-old students, hurting a third student, and shooting a first-grade teacher. One of the students, 6-year-old Jacob Hall, died of his injuries Oct. 1.

The Sheriff's Office also said this week that supplemental reports filed after the shooting are exempt from public disclosure.

Cole cited a section of state law that says the Sheriff's Office may withhold some records if disclosing them would "harm the agency by ... the premature release of information to be used in a prospective law enforcement action."

Bill Rogers, executive director of the South Carolina Press Association, called that exemption "ridiculous" in this case because the Sheriff's Office has already identified a suspect and made an arrest.

Bender said the Sheriff's Office may claim, but should have to prove, that releasing supplemental reports would harm the potential prosecution of the case.

The Sheriff's Office did release an incident report filed about the shooting. The report describes how the first deputies responding to the school found that a fireman, now known to be Jamie Brock, had pinned down the alleged shooter.

One 911 call, made from or near the Osborne home, remains under review by authorities and has not been made public.