A South Carolina police chief is refusing to suspend an officer under his command who was recently indicted on arson charges, reports WCSC.
22-year-old police officer Travis Balkom was arraigned on Tuesday on third-degree arson charges for allegedly setting fire to two homes in 2009, when he was 16-years-old. According to authorities, both homes burned to the ground and neither was rebuilt in the aftermath.
Cottageville Police Chief Charles Long defended Balkom, calling him a “gentleman” and a “well rounded officer,” while stating that he believes Balkom is innocent.
“I don’t think at all honestly he set them. I think it’s hearsay through the bush to be honest with you,” Long said, adding, “I believe him one hundred percent. I will stand behind him one hundred percent.”
Long says he will not fire Balkom and will allow him to continue patrolling the streets of Cottageville.
According to Long, a background check on Balkom prior to his joining the force last November turned up nothing besides a minor charge of driving under suspension which was later dropped.
Long wondered why the case against Balkom was suddenly filed.
“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.
Solicitor Duffie Stone has declined to comment on why it took 6 years to indict Balkom.
If convicted, Balkom faces fifteen years.
Watch the video below from WCSC: