Bomb threat evacuates 3 Williston schools

Tevin Braxton arrested for making threat

A bomb threat led to the evacuation of all three Williston schools, just minutes after the school day began.

Tevin J. Braxton, 19, of Elberta Circle, Barnwell, is charged with one count of false information about a bomb threat. He was not a student at the schools, said Chief Deputy Steve Griffith with the Barnwell County Sheriff’s Department. Braxton was transported to the Barnwell County Detention Center and on Tuesday afternoon was granted a $10,000 cash surety bond.

Around 8:15 a.m. on Monday, Jan. 8, the secretary of Williston-Elko High School received a phone call from a male with a mumbling voice who said “blow up”. The caller then hung up, but called back shortly after and said “I’m fixing to blow it up” before he hung up again, according to a copy of the incident report provided by the sheriff’s office.

The school resource officer evacuated all three schools – Kelly Edwards Elementary, Williston-Elko Middle and Williston-Elko High schools – since the threat didn’t specify a particular school. Students and staff from all three schools initially waited outside the schools, but were later transported via school buses to the gymnasium at Williston First Baptist Church.

“We wanted to make sure they were warm and safe,” said Interim Superintendent Dr. Everette Dean Jr. of getting the students out of the cold weather.

Meanwhile, a number of law enforcement agencies responded to secure and search the three school campuses, including the Williston Police Department, Barnwell County Sheriff’s Office, Aiken County Sheriff’s Office, Wackenhut Security from the Savannah River Site, and the State Law Enforcement Division. Firefighters and EMS who were on standby. Bomb-sniffing dogs worked alongside officers to clear all three school campuses and the district office.

Parents and guardians were notified around 8:35 a.m. of the bomb threat via the district’s alert system. They were informed of the students being moved to the church and the proper steps they needed to take to pick up their students. Dean encourages any parents who are not signed up for alerts to contact their child’s school office.

Three lines were formed outside of the church for parents to get in, depending on which school their children attended.

While waiting in line to pick up children at the church, a man collapsed. An ambulance transported him to the Aiken hospital where he later died. Barnwell County Coroner Lloyd Ward identified the man as Perstine Riley. He said Riley had several health issues, including coronary problems.

After the buildings were cleared a couple hours later, a second alert message notified parents that all remaining students had been transported back to their respective schools. While most students were picked up by parents, Dean said the students who were not picked up were fed lunch and given educational activities.

Dean praised the students, staff and parents for their handling of the difficult situation.

“I really felt the staff and principals did an excellent job in taking charge of the situation and helping organize transportation,” he said.

He also thanked First Baptist Church for being “very accommodating and helpful” by opening their doors.

This bomb threat comes after a series of similar cases in recent years, including a bomb threat exactly two years ago that led to the evacuation of Williston-Elko’s middle and high schools on Jan. 7, 2016. Barnwell High School and Allendale-Fairfax High School had separate bomb threats on Sept. 21, 2017. A bomb threat was made against Blackville-Hilda High School on Nov. 15, 2017; however, the middle school was also evacuated since the schools share a campus.