Judge sets bond for St. James High School flag burning suspect

akelley@thesunnews.comSeptember 9, 2013 

A Murrells Inlet 17-year-old facing charges following the burning of American flags Monday morning at St. James High School appeared before a judge Tuesday morning

Bond was set at $15,000 for a charge of third-degree arson, $2,500 for bringing a weapon on school property and $1,000 each for disturbing schools, malicious damage to property and petit larceny during a hearing at J. Reuben Long Detention Center.

If freed, Nick Newell will have to wear an ankle monitor and cannont contact the school.

Police arrested Newell around 1 p.m. Monday at a home on Indigo Creek Boulevard, Horry County Police Lt. RobertKegler said. About eight hours earlier school officials found burned flags outside the school’s front doors and notified police, prompting and evacuation and arson investigation. Traffic near the school was backed up in several directions for much of the day as parents rushed to pick their children up from the school.

No one was injured. Police did know identify a motive for the incident Monday.

Kegler said police were called to the school about 6:20 a.m. about the flags.

He said the evacuation was ordered and Horry County Bomb Squad was called after officers watched surveillance footage that showed the suspect acting in a manner that concerned police. A suspicious box was found at the school, but deemed irrelevant and benign early in the investigation, Kegler said.

By noon, the bomb squad had left the school.

The students had been evacuated to St. James Middle School so they could be out of the sun and have lunch, according to the school district website.

Parents who picked up students from the middle school were required to show identification. Students who ride buses and were not picked up by parents were sent home later on busses from St. James Middle School.

Students such as Savannah Fairchild used Twitter to talk about the events.

Fairchild said St. James isn’t a bad school.

She also didn’t like the way the school handled the incident.

“The way this situation is being handled is very, very wrong.,” she tweeted. “There’s at least 450 parents outside. It’s not fair to them or the kids.”

Parents expressed similar feelings but did not want to be interviewed by The Sun News. Teal Harding, school district spokeswoman, could not be reached for further comment.

Damage to the school from the fire was minimal, Kegler said. He said glass at the front door had shattered as a result of the fire, also flower pots had been dragged toward the door and turned over.

The motive for the flag burnings was not known.

Newell has no prior convictions according to records with the State Law Enforcement Division. According to an Horry County records search he was charged in August with shoplifting, $2,000 or less, and has requested a jury trial.

Kegler said police are investigating to see if Monday’s incident is related to incidents involving several American flags that were reported stolen and damaged in the Indigo Creek subdivision about two weeks ago.

The burned flags did not come from St. James High School, said Kegler, who said surveillance footage shows the suspect, removing flags from a backpack before burning them.

Ed Breslin, who lives in the Indigo Creek subdivision, said he and about 10 of his neighbors woke up the morning of Aug. 20 to find their flags had been vandalized overnight.

“I thought somebody should be held responsible for it. I thought it was such a disgrace to have a flag torn like that,” Breslin said about the vandalism. “We were woken up by a neighbor touring the neighborhood on a golf cart . . . and found our flag ripped like somebody hated that flag. It was torn and tied up.”

Breslin said he was upset someone would vandalize the flag. His was attached to a pole and the suspect could not remove it, but they tried to rip it down.

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