(Columbia, SC) The South Carolina Department of Juvenile Justice is not saying much about how an Upstate teen died while in custody Sunday night. It happened at the DJJ Detention Center in Columbia.
"At this particular time, we will not be able to discuss that simply because the investigation is full-force at this time," says DJJ director Margaret Barber.
DJJ says the 16-year-old was from Pelzer, in Anderson County, and he was alone in his cell at the time of his death. He was facing a burglary charge and was being charged as an adult. Richland County coroner Gary Watts says preliminary indications are that he died as a result of hanging.
Barber says there are policies and procedures in place designed to prevent suicides. "Our entire operation is to prevent anything like this," she says. "And of course we have watches that we are on constantly, and routine checks on our young people. We have our cameras and our surveillance that is presently in all the dorms and in the detention center. So we do have our checks and balances."
She says three DJJ employees have been suspended, without pay, after the incident, but won't say why.
This is the first suicide at DJJ since 1978. Barber says, "It is a family, and this has hurt all of us. We all take responsibility in many ways. When something happens to a young person, we all feel that it has happened to us, to our family member."
The State Law Enforcement Division is investigating the death.