Claflin chief: Police need cooperation

Sep 27, 2019

Claflin Department of Public Safety Chief Steve Pearson at the Sept. 24 news conference with The Panther.


It is in the best interest of students and the public to help police but they too often will not, Claflin University's chief of security says.

Speaking in the wake of a Sept. 20 shooting incident at South Carolina State University that injured two, including a Claflin student, Steve Pearson addressed safety and security during a news conference with the Claflin student newspaper on Sept. 24.

"Nobody wants to say they ratted out somebody (but) a bullet knows no name," Pearson said, noting the two injured students in the shooting apparently were bystanders hit by gunfire from people who entered the S.C. State campus after a dispute spilled over from a local club. "They're making your environment dangerous."

"We're trying to get people to understand, this is your safety," Pearson said. "This is something everyone has to be involved in. You're not snitching."

Some even take lack of cooperation to another level, Pearson said. After the Claflin campus was put on lockdown following the shooting at 1:47 a.m., one student refused to follow instructions to go inside her campus residence, arguing with campus officers.

"We had to deal with that distraction," Pearson said. "We need everybody to be cooperative."

"You could affect other people's lives by not wanting to listen," Pearson said. "That endangers everyone else."

Pearson said the night of the shooting was a long one on the Claflin campus as well as at neighboring S.C. State.

The chief got a call from Chief Joe Nelson at S.C. State at 1:50 a.m. advising that two people had been shot and that suspects were at large. Pearson moved swiftly to notify Claflin students of the danger via the Panther Alert system on their phones and computers. He then placed the campus on lockdown.

"We stopped all movement" on and off the campus, Pearson said, including preventing S.C. State students visiting at Claflin from returning to their campus.

"It was fresh. This was still going on," Pearson said. A lot of chaos surrounded the two campuses, with ambulances entering S.C. State and a State Law Enforcement Division helicopter hovering over The Commons residence facility at Claflin in order to shine a spotlight on Hugine Suites, an S.C. State co-ed dormitory where the shooting incident took place at Building K.

After being advised that one of the injured was a Claflin student, university officials including President Dwaun Warmack went to the Regional Medical Center, where the student was being treated for minor injuries. The S.C. State student injured in the incident also suffered minor injuries from the gunshots.

"There were still a lot of unknowns," Pearson said. By 7 a.m. when "everything was kind of settling down," he allowed S.C. State students to return to their campus from Claflin.

Though the shooters had fled on foot and bystanders ran from the scene at S.C. State, police did have the name of a person of interest, Pearson said.

They learned that the incident grew out of an off-campus party with students in attendance. "The situation went from a club to S.C. State."

Pearson said Claflin reviewed its camera system to determine if there was useful information on the suspects. "There was no activity on our side," he said.

S.C. State police on Sunday made an arrest in the case. Joshuaa Brionn Jarrett Collier, 22, of Bill Salley Road, Orangeburg has been charged with two counts of aggravated assault and battery of a high and aggravated nature, and possession of a firearm.

S.C. State police are leading the ongoing investigation, assisted by SLED, and say they’re following leads to identify a possible second suspect. They are asking anyone with information on the incident to call 803-536-7188.

Students move between the two campuses through designated areas --and also through holes in the fence between S.C. State and Claflin, Pearson said. "People create holes in the fence."

"It's very dangerous," he said of students moving about late at night in areas where security is not present. The issue of the fence, which is the property of S.C. State, is being addressed by the two schools. "Both campuses have to come up with solutions."

Pearson said Claflin is adding more cameras to its security network while S.C. State is upgrading its cameras as well.

"We're a whole lot better with cameras," Pearson said. Claflin's network consists of 144 cameras with 80 more to be added.

As to other security measures, Claflin has added personnel to its public safety force, is adding more emergency call boxes and may install security gate arms. Students will also have access to self-defense classes, Pearson said.



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