Affidavit: Student arrested for AR-15 at Trident Tech sent threatening text message

Samuel Branton (Source: CCDC)
Samuel Branton (Source: CCDC)

NORTH CHARLESTON, SC (WCSC) - A 21-year-old man arrested for having an AR-15 at Trident Technical College sent a threatening text message to a classmate which prompted authorities to find the weapon in the student's car, according to newly released court documents.

Samuel Patrick Branton was in court Thursday afternoon where he faced a charge of possession of a firearm on school grounds, concealed weapon.

He was given a $50,000 surety bond for the charge and posted bond Thursday night.

The investigation began on Wednesday at 1:30 p.m. when a teacher called the public safety department regarding a student with a weapon on school grounds. 

According to investigators, Branton sent a text message to a student asking whether the classroom was full, and also said someone would give up their seat if they saw "the AK that his mom packed him for lunch."

TTC officials, who were present at Thursday's bond hearing, said there were several text messages that were sent with one referencing the "AR for lunch" message.

The student who originally received the message then notified her teacher who then contacted the public safety department.

Court records state that the student "expressed fear and concern" over Branton's message.

Branton was then called out of class and consented to a search of his vehicle.

Authorities reported finding the AR-15 on the front seat of the car as well as a handgun. Officials said three knives were also found in Branton's backpack.

TTC officials said they considered the incident "very serious in nature" as threats were made to the victim on a previous occasion.

The victim, a female student, spoke during the bond hearing.

"On behalf of me and my fellow students what you did was not right," she said."Whether he thought he was joking about it or whether he thought he actually made a threat, we as a class felt threatened and have felt threatened about his presence for the majority of our program."

Branton's lawyer also spoke and said his client made a bad decision and a "bonehead move" in sending the text message.

"It was never intended to be any sort of threat whether it was taken that way," Branton's lawyer said."I sure am sorry for the folks that took it that way and I completely understand where it was coming from."

According to Branton's lawyer, there was no ammunition in the car and his client has no criminal record.

The affidavit states Branton told investigators that he had just purchased the AR rifle before coming to school and stated it was secured in his vehicle along with a handgun.

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