A man who was a participant in the Safe Communities initiative’s first “call-in” was detained after he pointed a firearm at a family member during a family event this weekend, according to the Aiken Department of Public Safety.
Kennard Thomas, 22, was charged with pointing and presenting a firearm. He was placed in the Aiken County detention center, where he remained on Monday afternoon.
Additional charges may be pending, police said.
While attending a family event in New Ellenton on Saturday, Thomas allegedly pointed a handgun at a family member “and threatened her well-being,” according to a statement by Aiken Public Safety.
In January, Thomas was in attendance at the first “call-in” for the Safe Communities initiative.
As part of the crime-fighting initiative, which is modeled after a similar program in High Point, N.C., chronic violent offenders are identified based on their present and past criminal activities and are invited to the call-in. There, they are told the effects of their crimes and that they face stiffer penalties and a expedited trials if they re-offend.
“Mr. Thomas was put on notice that evening as to the consequences if he committed another act of violence anywhere within the state of South Carolina,” said Cpl. Jeremy Hembree, a spokesman for Aiken Public Safety. “The above offense violates the notice Mr. Thomas was given by the members of the Aiken Safe Communities Law Enforcement Panel.”
The panel included representatives from Aiken Public Safety, the Aiken County Sheriff’s Office, the S.C. State Law Enforcement Division and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.
Stacey Haynes, of the U.S. Attorney’s Office, told the group of about 12 offenders that their statuses as convicted felons means they’ll face stiffer penalties for future crimes.
“One bullet is the same as a gun in the federal system,” she said. “Because you’re felons, you’re looking at up to 10 years. A couple of you guys are looking at a mandatory 15 years for a bullet or gun and possibly a life sentence. Think about that – 15 to life for a gun or ammo.”
Thomas has multiple arrests dating back to 2007 that include numerous weapons and drug charges, assault and battery with intent to kill and attempted murder.
Officers from Aiken Public Safety, the Sheriff’s Office, the New Ellenton Police Department, SLED and ATF searched for Thomas on Sunday but were unsuccessful. Thomas surrendered to authorities on Monday.
The premise of Safe Communities is that a small percentage of offenders are responsible for a large percentage of crime in a community.
High Point officials said during an open house last fall that the program isn’t about locking up repeat offenders, but rather getting them back on the right track with the help of law enforcement and community members.
High Point, which was once known as “Little Chicago” because of its high violent crime rate, saw a 54 percent decrease in violent crime since 1990, while the population increased from 75,000 to 107,000.
• Teddy Kulmala covers the crime beat for the Aiken Standard and has been with the newspaper since August 2012. He is a native of Williston and majored in communication studies at Clemson University.