Chief will keep suspected arsonist on police force

Published: Jan. 22, 2015 at 9:27 PM EST|Updated: Jan. 23, 2015 at 12:47 AM EST
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COTTAGEVILLE, SC (WCSC) - Cottageville's police chief says he has no intention of firing an officer who was recently charged in a 2009 case for setting two fires in Colleton County.

The officer, 22-year-old Travis Balkom was 16 years old at the time of the fires.

Balkom was arraigned on third-degree arson charges on Tuesday.

"I was stunned on it because the gentleman, he's a well rounded officer," said Cottageville Police Chief Charles Long.

According to the indictments, in February and March of 2009, Balkom set fires to two homes in the Round O community of Colleton County.

One of the fires was on Wesley Chapel Avenue, and the other on Sawmill Road.

The torched buildings were never rebuilt.

"It was just a shock. I just couldn't believe it and said really, why? And that's the question now, why? We don't know," Long said.

Long says the only charge he found on Balkom's background check was a driving under suspension charge which was dropped.

"I don't think at all honestly he set them. I think it's heresay through the bush to be honest with you."

Long says he will not fire Balkom and will allow him to continue working the streets of Cottageville.

"I believe him one hundred percent. I will stand behind him one hundred percent."

Solicitor Duffie Stone declined to comment on why its taken 6 years to charge Officer Balkom.

He's been on the force in Cottageville since November.

A conviction carries a maximum sentence of 15 years in prison.

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