An internal investigation into a report children from the Salvation Army summer camp were allegedly turned away from the Smithfield Recreation and Aquatics Center (SRAC) has been completed.
The copy of the report compiled by the Smithfield Police Department for Town Manager Michael Scott and members of the Smithfield town council has been obtained by WTSB News.
The report disputes all the allegations made by Salvation Army officials following a June 8th visit by nearly three dozen children.
The Salvation Army reported they were not allowed to return to the SRAC after their first visit when a child in their youth summer camp was assaulted by an adult while at the facility.
Major Keri Booth said the Salvation Army said during the visit SRAC staff was more concerned about the admission fee than anything else. Booth said a child, not part of their group, struck one of the juveniles in the summer camp. Booth said the juvenile struck back. The father of the child then forcibly grabbed and held the juvenile with the Salvation Army organization.
After the assault, Booth said SRAC officials told them the child and his father were SRAC members and the children in her group were not. “They said kids in our group are never going to become members,” Major Booth said on August 3rd “Our kids are poor, primarily African American with a few Hispanics, and they cannot afford to be members.”
Report Disputes Salvation Army Claims
The town report denies the youth camp members were asked to leave and were allowed to continue swimming “at least 30 minutes after the alleged assault incident and left at a time of the Salvation Army Staff’s choosing.”
The police investigation said SRAC employees were interviewed and none of the employees said they told the Salvation Army they could not return. “According to both SRAC employees and Salvation Army Staff, the SRAC Staff contacted the Salvation Army Staff on two occasions when cancelations occurred asking the Salvation Army if they wanted to return to the SRAC. Neither time worked out for the Salvation Army so they chose not to attend the SRAC.”
SRAC employees also denied telling Major Booth that their summer camp children would never become members. The report said non SRAC employee remembered having contact with Major Booth.
Adult Who Grabbed Child Not Criminal Act
The internal report also downplayed the alleged assault. The report confirmed an altercation took place between two juveniles playing basketball in the SRAC swimming pool and an adult male responsible for a 10 year-old did grab the arm of a 13 year-old summer camp participant and demanded to know what had occurred. The internal report stated, “This action did not rise to the level of an assault under North Carolina General Statute. No injury to either boy was alleged.”
Smithfield Police requested a copy of the video from the pool area for the date of the incident but the footage had been recorded over. A previous review of the footage by the SRAC pool director alleged the video tape was a panning camera and was out of position when the incident took place.
Statements By Salvation Army Unfounded Report Contends
Police also contend Major Booth’s statement to WRAL on August 5th saying, “We were told our children would never be members of the SRAC” could not be substantiated.
“The only person claiming to have heard this being said was Major Booth,” the report states. “Major Booth stated the SRAC Pool Director made this comment to Major Booth. In the interview between police and the SRAC Pool Director, the Pool Director denies making this statement and further denies ever having a conversation or meeting with Major Booth, stating the Pool Director has never seen Major Booth in person, though the Pool Director did see Major Booth interviewed on WRAL.”
“Police interviews indicate that Major Booth claims to have been present at the SRAC during the June 8th incident for no more than 15 minutes. All members of Major Booth’s staff told police Major Booth was not present at the SRAC on June 8th when the Salvation Army Campers were present. The only exception was Major Booth’s father who first stated Major Booth was at the SRAC on June 8th and then later stated he wasn’t sure, as it was a long time ago,” the report states.
Town Manager Commends SRAC Staff
Town Manager Michael Scott stated in the report, “…we should commend our staff at the Smithfield Recreation and Aquatic Center and Smithfield Parks and Recreation for how they handled this situation. Our staff was asked to cooperate with our local law enforcement and be fully transparent, while at the same time, asked to weather the media barrage and accusations that were floated by their peers. The staff did exactly what was requested of them while exemplifying restraint and professionalism by the leaders they truly are. It is never fun or enjoyable when being questioned by the police or the public. And rarely, when the outcome is found to be noncontroversial, is the conclusion as vigorously reported as the initial incident. I believe it is past time to allow our Parks and Recreation and our Aquatics staff to get back to the fun that they so fully represent to our community.”
Mayor Glad There Was No “Cover Up”
Smithfield Mayor Andy Moore called the incident “unfortunate.”
“The incident started with two minors playing in the pool, and emotions escalated as they many times do when children and family members are involved. I’m glad that no injuries occurred and I am relieved that the investigation revealed that the events did not rise to the level of an assault as defined in the North Carolina General Statute, nor was there a ‘cover-up’ by the SRAC employees.”
“I am also relieved that the accusations made by the Salvation Army that their summer camp was not allowed to utilize our facilities was unfounded,” Moore said Thursday.
“It is our continual goal to provide trusted service to the citizens and visitors of our Town. I commend our Police Department for conducting a comprehensive investigation. As always, we appreciate receiving questions of concern and we will do our due diligence to make certain that these concerns are addressed appropriately and in a timely manner.”