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Teenager snuck loaded gun past officers and into DJJ facility, police say

According to Columbia Police, a lack of thorough search procedures lead to the 13-year-old getting the gun inside.

COLUMBIA, S.C. — After a 13-year-old was arrested for having a loaded gun at Columbiana Centre Mall, police say he sneaked a second loaded gun into the Department of Juvenile Justice Broad River Road facility.

A Columbia Police spokesperson called the incident, “an egregious failure on many levels.”

It started when the boy and a relative were arrested at Columbiana Mall Tuesday for having guns. According to Columbia Police, officers did an initial search of the boy and confiscated a loaded handgun. DJJ Director Eden Hendrick told News19 that when he was transferred to their custody hours later, he was patted down, showered, and dressed in facility clothes. 

However, it wasn’t until the next day that it was discovered he had a second weapon, which Hendrick said was safely recovered by facility staff.

Senator Katrina Shealy weighed in on the matter as a lawmaker extremely involved in reforming DJJ. She told News19, "it raises concerns, the fact that it went from one location to another location. It passed through a lot of hoops before it got to DJJ. So, it's a security issue.”

Shealy said Hendrick told her about the incident. "We do have a direct line of communication, when they have an issue out there, she'll text me," said Shealy.

RELATED: Police: Teen arrested with gun in Columbiana Mall snuck weapon into DJJ facility in Columbia

The loaded gun is far from the first time safety has been put at risk at the facility. The agency has been under fire for unsafe working and living conditions; something Hendrick said she’s working hard to change now that she’s taken over.

Shealy said she's confident Hendrick will turn the agency around. "Are there going to be difficulties? Yes, because you can't go in overnight and make something that was a total train wreck, you know, stand straight back up and just start chugging along."

In a statement to News19, Columbia Police called the lack of a thorough search by officers “unacceptable” and a risk to public safety. The department says the arresting officers have been put on administrative duty pending completion of training programs.

To prevent this in the future, Hendrick told News19 that DJJ will revamp its intake process and all staff will be retrained on intake, search, and other safety procedures. She added that employees involved in the search have been suspended.

News19 reached out to the Governor's Office for a response on the matter. A spokesperson told News19, "the governor’s office is aware of the incident. Obviously, it’s an unacceptable mistake, but Governor McMaster is confident that Director Hendrick will make the appropriate changes at the agency – and to work with the agency’s law enforcement partners – to ensure that nothing like this happens again."

RELATED: 7-year-old found with loaded handgun at northeast Columbia school, deputies say

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