HALIFAX COUNTY, N.C. — Students at Hobgood Academy were released from school for the rest of the day Thursday morning after a blasting cap was found on the school playground -- the second time this week an explosive has been discovered on the campus.
Three Halifax County teens have been charged for stealing the caps from a farmer and detonating them on the school playground over the holiday break. A toy playhouse was damaged at the small private school located near the Nash County line.
The school was evacuated for the first time Tuesday, and the Halifax County Sheriff's Office called, after a teacher found charred wires from a blasting cap on school grounds.
According to investigators, the suspects -- 16-year-old James Braddy and two 14-year-olds -- stole the blasting caps from a neighbor. One of the boys was injured by one of the blasts. They face 22 charges in all.
Braddy reportedly had been expelled from the school several years ago. He was arrested and charged with breaking and entering, larceny after breaking and entering, nine counts of having weapons of mass destruction and nine counts of having a weapon on school grounds.
He was being held Friday in the Halifax County jail on $100,000 bond.
The two 14-year-olds were taken into custody Friday. They will be in the custody of juvenile services for five days. Next Wednesday, they will go before a district judge who will decide whether they should be released into their parents' custody.
Braddy made his first court appearance Friday. He was denied a court-apppointed attorney because he did not know his social security number, and he refused to answer the judge's questions. His next court appearance will be Jan. 21.
The Cumberland County Sheriff's Office bomb squad made a sweep of the school Tuesday night after the first evacuation and removed several blasting caps that were found buried in the playground sand. The bomb squad came back Thursday to conduct another sweep.
Blasting caps are considered very dangerous. They look like small firecrackers and are used to ignite dynamite.
"They are extremely unstable," said Lt. Joe Williams, of the Halifax County Sheriff's Office. "These caps are 40 years old. Some of them are corroded. You can just pick them up, and they can prematurely detonate."
A first-grader made Thursday's discovery in the playground sand. Investigators said they did not know if the cap was missed during Tuesday's sweep or if it was put there after the sweep.
Principal William Whitehurst said he did not hesitate to evacuate the school either time.
"I cannot wih a clear conscience let my kindergartners, my first-graders, go out and play where there are dynamite caps," Whitehurst said.
Speaking about the suspects, Whitehurst said: "I hope they can understand the disrespect they have shown to our school and to our community, and most of all, to themselves."
Student Tyler Keel appeared to understand.
"I think that it is really serious," Keel said, "and the person who did it should really be in trouble."