Police bomb squads removed multiple devices from Socastee High School on Tuesday after a shooting inside forced an evacuation, left a school resource officer injured and led to a student's arrest, according to Sgt. Robert Kegler with the Horry County Police Department.
Later Tuesday night, police also removed several items of interest from the home of the student on Belmont Park Drive, according to Lt. Keith Strickland. But Strickland couldn't elaborate on what was taken from the home.
Kegler said police found devices he did not describe as explosive inside the school between 6:15 and 6:30 p.m., hours after students had been sent home from Socastee High.
Bomb squads from Horry County Police Department, the State Law Enforcement Division and Myrtle Beach Police Department, each using a bomb-sniffing dog, searched the school, Kegler said.
"Multiple devices were found in the school. The bomb squad is working on rendering them safe," Kegler said Tuesday evening.
"There was a mention of a suspicious device and as a result the bomb team is here." Kegler said about 2:30 p.m. Tuesday.
But hours before the devices were found, police and school officials had evacuated the high school and closed off S.C. 707 in response to the shooting, Kegler said.
About 2 p.m. Tuesday, police said a student, who has not been identified because he is a juvenile, went into the school resource officer's office, asked to speak to the officer and then showed a weapon, Kegler said.
"I don't know what the conversation was or how it went," Kegler said.
The weapon was fired, but the officer was not struck, Kegler said. The officer and the student struggled inside the office before the officer took the student into custody.
The incident is the third involving a shooting at an Horry County school in recent years, including a fatal incident on Oct. 16, 2009, when a 16-year-old died after being shot by the school resource officer at Carolina Forest High School. Authorities said the teen in that incident was armed with two knives and attacked the officer inside his office.
Kegler didn't identify the officer who was injured Tuesday, but officials at Conway Medical Center said Erik Karney, who is listed as the school's resource officer on the Horry County Police Department website, was treated and released Tuesday afternoon.
The shooting came as a surprise to students who said they know the teen who was arrested.
"I've been knowing him since elementary school," said 16-year-old Lizeth Perez, an 11th-grader at the school. "He would do tricks on his skateboard. It's incredible how he could do something like this. It doesn't seem like him."
Angie Perez, 16, Lizeth's cousin and also an 11th-grader at Socastee High, said other students teased the student because "he's kind of short."
"He seemed nice," she said.
Students at the school were released around about 4 p.m. Tuesday, less than an hour later than usual.
Jerry Barraza, a 17-year-old senior at the school, said he was in his construction class when the school's principal came over the loudspeaker and declared "a code red" and asked that the lights be turned off and everybody stay quiet and out of sight. Barraza said a minute later, the principal told everybody to take the fire escape routes and head toward the football field.
Students were evacuated to the field behind the school, according to Milt Thorpe, the father of Sadie Thorpe, a senior at the high school.
Cameron Davidson, a 16-year-old junior at the school, said students were told to "just sit and stay and be quiet" when they were moved to the football field. He said everyone was on their cell phone. He received a call from his sister, dad and mom.
"They got us out [of the school] quick and organized," Davidson said. "I wasn't concerned for my safety."
Colin Sellers, a senior at Socastee High, said his brother, who is a freshman at the school, called him also from a friend's cell phone and told Sellers he was on the bleachers at the football field.
"I was surprised that it happened," Sellers said.
Kim Kemmner, whose son is in ninth grade at the school, works at St. James High School and heard about the shooting when the school resource officer at her school immediately left to assist Karney, she said.
"It's something we have to deal with. That just the way it is now," Kemmner said with her voice full of emotion as she waited Tuesday afternoon with other parents outside the Rite Aid for the students to be released from the school. "It's sad. It really is, but that's just the way our society is now."
Contact JANELLE FROST at 443-2404 or TONYA ROOT at 444-1723.