Underage drinking major health concern in US, SC. Binge drinking can make it deadly
A Beaufort County coach and teacher was charged this week after he was accused of bringing alcohol to a minor he met on a dating app.
Beaufort High School boys basketball coach Will Lowther, 33, was arrested Monday after turning himself in to police. He was charged with providing alcohol to a minor, Beaufort County jail records show. Lowther was booked at Beaufort County Detention Center and released the same morning on his own recognizance, according to court records.
He is scheduled to appear in municipal court May 30. A phone message for Lowther’s attorney, Maureen Coffey, wasn’t immediately returned Friday.
According to a Beaufort Police Department report, a Beaufort High School student told police she was at her home with two other juveniles who weren’t Beaufort High students one night in April when Lowther arrived with two bottles of alcohol. The student told police she recognized Lowther from school and asked him to leave.
One of the juveniles told police they had been messaging on a dating app with a person named “Mike,” whose profile indicated he was 18 years old. The juvenile eventually invited “Mike” over.
When a man much older than expected arrived at the door, the juvenile left him on the sofa and went to the bathroom to send a social media message to someone else to get the man out of the house. The person later identified Lowther from a police lineup.
Lowther initially denied the allegations to investigators and said he had been watching basketball with a fellow teacher at a bar in Bluffton that night, according to the report. The other teacher’s statement to police, text messages discussing the plans and restaurant receipts all indicate Lowther had been at the Bluffton business the same night.
But Lowther’s cellphone records also placed him in the Mossy Oaks area of Beaufort during a half-hour window the same evening, according to the police report. When asked about the phone records and told that a juvenile had picked him out of a lineup as having brought alcohol to the house after a conversation on the dating app, Lowther declined to talk further, the report says.
In a later interview May 13 with his attorney present, Lowther told police he had a conversation on the app with someone he thought was 18 years old and in college visiting Beaufort from out of town, according to police documents. He told police he bought two bottles of liquor and brought them to the house because he thought he was talking to an 18-year-old college student and that the alcohol would “break the ice,” according to the report.
He said he was at the home less than two minutes and left after the person he was meeting left the room and a female entered the living room and told him to leave.
Lowther told investigators he represented himself on the app as being 25 years old. A police spokeswoman said the person Lowther met was younger than 18 but did provide the exact age.
Lowther was placed on administrative leave from his job as a physical education teacher May 10 and fired from his coaching job after his arrest Monday, school district spokesman Jim Foster said.
He was hired in 2018 and coached one season for the Eagles. He was previously an assistant coach at Greenwood High School and was head basketball coach at South Aiken for one season in 2015-16.
The alcohol charge is a misdemeanor and a first offense punishable by a fine between $200 and $300 or up to 30 days in jail. Lowther had no previous arrests in the state, according to S.C. Law Enforcement Division records.
The Beaufort Gazette and The Island Packet don’t typically identify people charged with misdemeanor offenses unless the person holds a position of public trust.