Beaufort News

School board member questioned after alleged gun threat

Michael Rivers, pictured at a Beaufort County school board meeting in 2015, denied this week making a threatening phone call to Veteran’s Affairs.
Michael Rivers, pictured at a Beaufort County school board meeting in 2015, denied this week making a threatening phone call to Veteran’s Affairs.

A threatening phone call to a Veterans Affairs caseworker this week prompted deputies to question a longtime Beaufort County school board member and candidate for state government.

Beaufort County sheriff’s deputies went to the St. Helena Island home of Michael Rivers, 57, on Wednesday to perform a health and welfare check after he allegedly told a caseworker he had a gun and would use it at an unspecified Veterans Affairs facility, according to a report on the incident.

Rivers, who was not home at the time, later denied the allegations both to law enforcement and a reporter.

“That’s crazy,” he said when reached Thursday evening, adding that he did not realize officers had come to his house the day before.

Rivers, an Air Force veteran, has served 17 years on the Beaufort County school board representing District 3 — Beaufort, Lady’s Island and St. Helena — and is also running as a Democrat for the District 121 seat of the S.C. House of Representatives.

The Sheriff’s Office plans to follow up with the caseworker who spoke to Rivers, but Capt. Bob Bromage said he doesn’t expect any further investigation.

“We have not substantiated any threat whatsoever,” Bromage said. “They were concerned for his safety, and he’s fine.”

A VA Crisis Line employee, who works in New York, reported the alleged threat to deputies Wednesday, according to the report.

It states that Rivers called the caseworker upset about being denied an increase in his VA benefits and “advised that he had a weapon (a handgun) near him and was going to use it at an unspecified VA facility.”

The caseworker reportedly pressed him for additional information, but Rivers disconnected and did not answer several subsequent calls.

He did not indicate he wanted to hurt himself, the report said. There is no recording of the phone call between Rivers and the caseworker, Bromage said.

When deputies arrived at Rivers’ Seaside Road home just before 6 p.m. Wednesday, there was no car outside and no lights on, and Rivers did not answer the door.

The board member said he had left for church. He is an ordained minister and preaches at United Church of Jesus Christ on Duke Street in Beaufort.

Rivers did not speak to a reporter for long on Thursday. He said he was in Columbia and had to take another call, and attempts to call him back were unsuccessful.

Rivers also serves on the Beaufort-Jasper Academy for Career Excellence school board, a post that is appointed by the Beaufort County school board. If he is elected to the Legislature, the school board would need to hold a special election to replace him and appoint another member to the ACE board.

Attempts to reach school board chairwoman Mary Cordray were unsuccessful Friday.

A final copy of the Sheriff’s Office report will not be available until next week.

“We’re going to do our due diligence and finish the investigation,” Bromage said.

Rebecca Lurye: 843-706-8155, @IPBG_Rebecca