Glynn County police said nothing is off the table as their investigation continues into the abuse of a teenager who was dropped off at a hospital last week and nearly died.
Roughly 11 juveniles were at a St. Simons house party where Trent Lehrkamp, 19, was seen being sprayed with a hose while slumped over in a chair, interim police Chief O’Neal Jackson said at a news conference Wednesday. Nine juveniles were at a separate incident involving the teen, and some were seen at both. Photos and videos captured by bystanders were posted to social media, authorities said, and police are still working to interview those involved.
“There were a lot of juveniles that were at both incidents and nothing was (said) when they were occurring,” Jackson said. “So I would ask that folks not be afraid to speak up. This incident may not have even been reported if the victim didn’t end up in the hospital, which is really sad.”
Lehrkamp was breathing just six times a minute when three teens put him in the back of a Jeep and dropped him off at Southeast Georgia Health Center the evening of March 21, according to police.
He was unresponsive after consuming a combination of vodka and antidepressants, and Lehrkamp’s blood alcohol level was .464, nearly six times the legal limit. His clothes were soaked in urine, he had spray paint all over his body and hair and a small bruise on his shoulder, according to the incident report.
Jackson said information posted to social media in the days since, including the names of several teens who were allegedly present for the abuse, was inaccurate and hindering his department’s investigation.
What Lehrkamp experienced was horrible, the chief said, but rampant misinformation circulating about the case is affecting “many families” in the community.
Some of those who have been misidentified online have nothing to do with the investigation, he said. There’s also been widespread speculation that Lehrkamp has autism, but both the teen’s family and police say he’s never been diagnosed.
An online fundraiser to assist with Lehrkamp’s medical expenses had raised nearly $95,000 as of Wednesday afternoon. He spent several days in the hospital’s intensive care unit with a lung infection, but seems to be recovering after the abuse he endured at the house party.
Detectives searched the home hours after the incident and have since interviewed several teenagers. On Sunday, detectives spoke with Lehrkamp at the hospital and were given a statement about what happened that night. Jackson said police plan to interview the teen again, but declined to say how many search warrants have been executed in the past week.
Jackson said getting to the bottom of what happened that night will take time, telling reporters, “this isn’t going to be an overnight investigation.”
“If we could just make a case off one single photo or one single video without getting any other type of evidence, then that would not be a thorough investigation,” he said. “We owe it to this victim and to his family to make sure we get it right.”
He said detectives were still analyzing devices collected during their investigation and sorting through information received through searches and interviews. Some of that evidence is being analyzed by the GBI, which is assisting Glynn County police in the investigation, he said. There’s also surveillance video from the hospital where Lehrkamp was taken.
The chief said even the parents of the teenagers involved could be charged as detectives work to determine how the minors obtained the alcohol and drugs consumed that night.
“We’re not taking anything off the table,” Jackson told reporters. “We’re looking at this investigation from a holistic point of view. Not only the parents that (owned) the home this occurred in, but we’re also looking into where the alcohol was obtained from, as well as any type of narcotics.”
Days earlier, Lehrkamp came home from a party covered in WD-40, vomit, paint, glue and egg yolk, his father told police. And a week before that, the father took Lehrkamp to the emergency room after his son came back with a cut above his eye that required stitches.
The initial police call came in last week as a “hazing” incident, according to the report, but authorities said this case doesn’t meet the criteria because it doesn’t involve a school, an event or a specific organization.
“In our society we should have zero tolerance for the bullying or mistreatment of others,” Jackson said. “All that I ask is when you see something you have to say something.”