Teen arrested for turning donuts and damaging Doko Meadows Park

Steven Hasterok, former Director of the Conference and Events Center, examines damage from large ‘donuts’ cut into the park’s athletic field in August 2021 by an adult who was never arrested. Similar damage was caused again last month by a 17-year-old who was arrested on Oct. 18. | Barbara Ball

BLYTHEWOOD – Richland County Sheriff’s deputies have arrested a male juvenile accused of vandalizing Doko Meadows Park.

The teen was arrested on Oct. 18, according to Sara Blann, a public information officer with the Sheriff’s department.   He was charged with vandalism and released into the custody of a parent.

The incident occurred on the evening of Wed., Oct. 5, 2022, according to the sheriff’s report. The damage to the park consists of donuts driven into the grass on the soccer field next to McLean Road, according to Town Manager Carroll Williamson, who said the field suffered significant damage, rendering it unusable.

According to the incident report, a town hall employee reported that “upon his arrival to work the morning of Oct. 5, he noticed several tire marks in the grass of the park that appeared as if someone was doing donuts in the grass with a vehicle. He stated that the grass is off limits to vehicles.”

After viewing footage from the town hall’s surveillance cameras, the deputy said he was able to view the suspect’s vehicle license plate.

A press release issued by Town Hall stated that town leaders have made significant investments in park security, including fencing, extensive camera coverage, license plate readers, and an automated security gate.

Asked by The Voice how the intruder got into the park with a vehicle at night, Williamson had not responded at press time.

The case of an adult male digging glaring donut holes in the grass at a large gathering in the park on July 31, 2021, causing $1,500 in damage, went unsolved even though he was identified and had connections in the community.

Richland County investigators still haven’t publicly identified the prime suspect in that incident who remains at large despite a wealth of evidence, most of which investigators and Town officials have shielded from public view.

In a response to a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request from The Voice, a sheriff’s department representative said it would cost The Voice $200 to receive the sheriff’s email communications with Town of Blythewood leaders concerning the Doko Park vandalism incident.

The Voice submitted a similar FOIA request to The Town of Blythewood, which denied the newspaper’s request, possibly in violation of the FOIA.

Town Administrator Carroll Williamson said releasing emails to and from elected town leaders would “interfere with a prospective law enforcement proceeding.”

Jay Bender, an attorney with the S.C. Press Association, of which The Voice is a member, said the exemption cited by Williamson applies to law enforcement records, such as police reports, not political or administrative discussions about a crime.

“I would make the argument that political discussions are not exempt from disclosure,” Bender said.

Neither town hall nor the sheriff’s department would release surveillance video, and an incident report redacted rudimentary information, including the truck’s color, the apartment complex in which the suspect lives, and even the suspect’s age.

Bender questioned why the report was so heavily redacted.

“They probably think they can make an arrest without citizen interest,” he said. “If they wanted the public’s help, they would hold a press conference.”

No information has been provided to The Voice by the Town or Sheriff’s department in order to receive help from the public in tracking down the known suspect.

The Town of Blythewood didn’t file an incident report until Aug. 3, three days after the vandalism occurred. On that date, a deputy reported that he circled the apartment complex but couldn’t find the suspect or his truck.

Investigators identified the suspect after running his vehicle information through an S.C. Department of Motor Vehicles database.

Investigators have obtained warrants but those were not made available to The Voice. The sheriff’s department would not say when warrants were obtained.

“A suspect has been identified in this incident and charges are pending at this time. The individual’s identity will be released when an arrest has been made,” an agency spokeswoman said via email.

Bender said there’s no legal requirement to withhold an unserved arrest warrant.

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