Myrtle Beach police seeking witnesses to two shootings that killed 3, injured 2 on Ocean Boulevard

mprabhu@thesunnews.comMay 25, 2014 

Those visiting Myrtle Beach for Memorial Day weekend said they were saddened to hear of the shootings Saturday night that killed three people and hospitalized two others.

Jamie Williams, 28, of Ladson, and Devonte Dantzler, 21, and Sandy Gaddis Barnwell, 22, both of Summerville were pronounced dead by Horry County deputy coroner Darris Fowler Saturday. Fowler said all three died from trauma to vital organs due to gunshot wounds sustained during a shooting at Bermuda Sands Resort on First Avenue North.

Thousands traveled to the Grand Strand to participate in Atlantic Beach BikeFest during Memorial Day weekend and some said the two shootings, which happened within hours of each other about seven blocks apart, will likely keep them from coming back.

Myrtle Beach police spokesman Capt. David Knipes said he could not confirm the shootings were related to BikeFest.

“This is my first time at bike week,” said Jay Robinson of Ridgewood on Sunday afternoon outside Bermuda Sands. “I don’t think I’ll come back on Memorial Day weekend, or any weekend. I’m going to leave Myrtle Beach alone.”

Robinson, who is not a motorcyclist, said he was on the south end of Myrtle Beach when the shooting occurred, but said hearing about it made him nervous.

“I want to get back home to my kids,” he said.

George Covington of Burlington, N.C., said he’s stayed at the hotel several times in the 15 years he’s visited Myrtle Beach for the annual Atlantic Beach BikeFest, which began Friday.

“For a place this nice, to have this happen to them, it’s a tragedy,” he said of Bermuda Sands. “It’s stupid. And what they were fighting about, I don’t know.”

Things were back to normal at Bermuda Sands on Sunday afternoon, with tourists on foot, in cars and on motorcycles making their way up and down Ocean Boulevard.

Myrtle Beach detectives and crime scene officers were back on the scene around 3 p.m. Sunday, interviewing people and taking photographs of shell casings from the previous night’s shooting.

Knipes said there were 722 calls for service between 5 p.m. Saturday and 5 a.m. Sunday, including the two shootings as well as four reported armed robberies. He said he would not be able to comment as to whether this weekend was busier than previous years until later in the week.

Even with the number of incidents, he said the police will continue to patrol Ocean Boulevard as they have been.

“We have every available officer working,” he said. “There’s not much more we can do with the resources we have available.”

The shooting at Bermuda Sands was the second to happen on Ocean Boulevard on Saturday night. One man was shot at Sixth Avenue South at about 9:30 p.m. and taken to Grand Strand Medical Center to be treated, Knipes said. His condition was unknown on Sunday afternoon.

While police were investigating that shooting, shots were fired at Bermuda Sands, about seven blocks away at First Avenue North.

According to a Myrtle Beach police press release, officers responded at about 11 p.m. Saturday for a reported large fight. Three shots were fired before police arrived, striking Keith Williams. As police were providing medical attention to Keith Williams, those involved in the fight moved to the second floor of Bermuda Sands, according to the release.

After about five minutes, officers said the shooter then went to the second floor of the hotel and fired several shots at Jamie Williams, Dantzler and Barnwell, who police say were involved in the fight.

Police believe the shooter fled out of the back of the hotel.

Jamie Williams and Dantzler died immediately on the scene, and Barnwell and Keith Williams were taken to Grand Strand with gunshot wounds. Barnwell was pronounced dead at the hospital.

About 20 people could be seen in the outdoor hallways of the upper floors of Bermuda Sands looking down on the second floor and taking pictures, where two of the people were shot and killed.

Officers draped sheets over the hallway’s railing just outside the doors to two second-floor rooms of the motel to shield two of the bodies from people on nearby Ocean Boulevard.

There were two homicides in Myrtle Beach in 2013, and Knipes said having three in one night was concerning.

Police continue to investigate the shootings. They could not say if the shootings were related.

Covington said he saw people fighting on the sidewalk in front of Bermuda Sands when initial shots were fired. He said a few minutes later he heard another several shots, screams and then quiet.

“At first, everyone was standing around to see who was going to win the fight,” he said. “Then they started shooting and everyone ran. They started to come back and then I just heard [several gunshots], then everything was quiet.”

Covington said he felt the police presence was more relaxed this year than in previous years.

“The police seemed more laid back, and then this happened,” he said.

The shooting investigation closed portions of Ocean Bouleard until after 3 a.m. Sunday.

Further south on Ocean Boulevard, people lined the sidewalks and questioned each other trying to learn why the road was closed to vehicle traffic from Third Avenue South to about Fifth Avenue North. One block at Bermuda Sands also was closed to pedestrian traffic early Sunday morning.

Police ask that anyone who witnessed the incident or has cell phone video to email btruex@cityofmyrtlebeach.com or call 918-1382.

Contact MAYA T. PRABHU at 444-1722 or on Twitter @TSN_mprabhu.

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