Police say Georgia teenager Trent Lehrkamp was not bullied at the house party

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After a Georgia teenager was hospitalized with a blood alcohol count of 0.464 last month, police began investigating claims he was bullied at a party.

A photo of 19-year-old Trenton Lehrkamp passed out in a chair surrounded by other teenagers, and a video of him being hosed down went viral on social media. A fundraiser for Lehrkamp’s medical expenses said he was tortured, humiliated and assaulted “for hours in an inhuman, appalling manner.”

For weeks, protesters demanded justice and prayed near the hospital where Lehrkamp was recovering. Lehrkamp said in an audio message to the WSAV earlier this month that “justice will be served.”

During a news conference Monday, the Glynn County police chief and prosecutor denied many points of that narrative. Officials said Lehrkamp was willingly drinking with other teenagers at a neighbor’s house, noting that the co-workers who drove him to the hospital likely saved his life.

Police arrested the homeowners – Carlton Strother, 46, and Lauren Strother, 56 – on Monday on charges of maintaining a disorderly home and contributing to a minor’s delinquency or addiction. They were released on bail the same day. The Strothers and their attorney did not respond to Washington Post requests for comment.

Police have also charged a 17-year-old as an adult and two other juveniles in a separate investigation related to the Lehrkamp case. Investigators didn’t go into detail but said the charges were unrelated to the allegations of harassment that sparked protests.

“A lot of things have been misrepresented on social media,” District Attorney Keith Higgins said. “There were a lot of people with fake profiles, people who weren’t even from around this area, spreading misinformation and hitting hot topics that then pissed off other people.”

Lehrkamp’s father, Mark, did not respond to requests for comment, but a statement from the family posted to Lehrkamp’s GoFundMe page on Monday criticized law enforcement’s response.

The statement said there were other instances where the teens abused Lehrkamp, ​​who the family says has post-traumatic stress disorder.

“It was evident that they wanted to address and correct what the children didn’t do, but didn’t want to acknowledge the fact or acknowledge what was done to Trent,” the statement said. “At the end of the day, he was mistreated in an inhuman way. Trent was humiliated, hosed down in a chair and the joke of social media videos, and taped to a chair and posed with pictures; It is disgusting.”

On March 21, Lehrkamp attended a party with a group of high school students at the Strothers’ home in St. Simons Island, Georgia, Glynn County Police said. Those teenagers later drove Lehrkamp to Southeast Georgia’s health care system after he consumed vodka and antidepressants, police said. Lehrkamp, ​​who had spray paint on his body and hair, was unresponsive, according to a police incident report. He struggled to breathe and was put on a ventilator, police said.

In the days that followed, the photo of Lehrkamp on a chair circulated on social media. Founded on March 26, GoFundMe claimed it was abused by “heinous and abusive offenders.” The fundraiser said Lehrkamp was battling a fever and pneumonia. Since then, more than $133,300 has been raised.

Lehrkamp’s father told police that on other occasions Lehrkamp had returned from the Strothers’ home covered in lube, vomit, paint, glue and egg yolk, and once with a cut above his left eye that required stitches, according to the incident report.

Police announced on March 26 that they were investigating.

Several protests followed in Glynn County, including one led by Theawanza Brooks, Ahmaud Arbery’s aunt. In a March 29 press conference, interim Police Commissioner O’Neal Jackson III read a statement from Lehrkamp’s family saying they wanted to “prevent this from happening to others.” In an April 2 audio message to the WSAV, Lehrkamp said he needed time to process “the trauma.”

On April 3, Jackson released a statement to debunk misinformation. The statement said Lehrkamp is not autistic, as some people had speculated, and that there was no evidence anyone had defecated on Lehrkamp or forced him to consume battery acid, two other rumors related to the case.

“In the past several days, our community has been challenged with a desire for swift justice and accountability while balancing the need for a thorough and full investigation,” Jackson said in a statement.

Investigators said Monday they had collected witness interviews, medical records, phone records, search warrants and forensic evidence to learn the truth.

“Although I am not normally permitted to speak about the details of a pending case,” Higgins said, “I may speak to address and correct misinformation that has been widely publicized.”

Higgins said Monday Lehrkamp was not forced to drink alcohol and he volunteered to sit in the chair for the photo. Lehrkamp’s colleagues drove him to the hospital after noticing his condition and stayed there to make sure he was treated, Higgins said.

Lehrkamp was soaked when he arrived at the hospital after asking his friends to spray him with water after an egg fight, Higgins said. Police said they are still investigating the case.

Although five people have been charged, Higgins said the public interest in the case prompted police to resort to other investigations.

“It just diverted a lot of resources to a matter that, while serious, isn’t as serious as other cases,” Higgins said.