Aiken Department of Public Safety officers are seeking a man who assaulted two young women during the Aiken Relay For Life event at South Aiken High School’s football field on Friday night.
One of two women, who is 18, was transported to Aiken Medical Regional Centers with a facial laceration, said Public Safety spokesman Sgt. Jake Mahoney.
The suspect is a black male about 20-years-old and is reported to be from New Ellenton.
That incident occurred shortly after 10 p.m., but it was not the only one. During the traditional luminary event that honors cancer survivors and recalls those who have lost the battle against cancer, Mikal Rakem, 18, was charged with disorderly conduct and taken to the Aiken County detention center.
By 11:30 p.m., nearly all the Relay team tents and others had left the field, well ahead of the schedule to close up at 1 a.m.
Mahoney said the first disturbance involved about 15 individuals during the event. The assault took place during that disturbance, he said.
“The suspect still has not been identified at this time. We will be following up with both victims to see if we can get an identification,” Mahoney said on Saturday.
The second incident occurred about 20 minutes later and was not related to the first, Mahoney said. Another group of individuals was near the center of the football field during the luminary observance, which included a moment of silence.
“They were loud and boisterous,” Mahoney said. “They were asked by Relay organizers and officers to lower their voices for respect of others, but continued in a loud and boisterous manner.”
One man, later identified as Rakem, used profanity in an officer’s presence, Mahoney said. As he was escorted out of the stadium, he continued to behave in a disorderly manner, leading to the charge and transport to the detention center.
“These people were not there for the tribute by the Cancer Society to pay homage to those who have lost their fight against cancer,” Mahoney said.
Gail Diggs, an Aiken City Council member, acknowledged she did not see or hear the first incident. However, she heard people at the main stage urging and demanding an end to the disruptive behavior and instead, display respect during the ceremony.
Diggs said she later heard teenagers being loud and not responding to requests to stop. People were clearly uneasy and started to leave the premises, she said.
As a cancer survivor, Diggs looks forward to Relay For Life. Her mother, her grandmother and her aunt died of cancer.
“This is a memorial service, plus a celebration of life for the survivors,” Diggs said. “It’s a sacred time, not a party, not a place to hang out with friends and be disrespectful. This is so frustrating.”
Mahoney also expressed concern that people would gather at a solemn event with such disruptive behavior.
“This is something we’re going to have to work on and trying to prevent in the future,” he said. “Having more law enforcement is definitely a consideration.”
• Senior writer Rob Novit is the Aiken Standard’s education reporter and has been with the newspaper since September 2001. He is a native of Walterboro and majored in journalism at the University of Georgia.