A viral video of a confrontation Wednesday at a Myrtle Beach McDonald's where police and employees oust a customer and homeless man garnered more than 42 million views online as thousands decried the police officer's and manager's decisions.
The city and Myrtle Beach Police Department received phone calls "practically from everywhere" as well as thousands of negative comments on social media sites.
The Facebook video posted by Yossi Gallo on Wednesday begins inside the 220 N. Kings Highway McDonald's.
"I’m getting kicked out of here because I gave a homeless guy food!,” Gallo said on the video.
In the recording, Gallo says he brought the homeless man into the restaurant to buy him a meal. However, the MBPD states the man previously was warned to leave the property after allegedly asking people for money.
But, Gallo contended that the unidentified man never requested aid. “Ma’am, he didn’t ask me for money,” he said. “… He didn’t even ask me for food! I brought him from outside.”
Gallo tried to stop the man's removal and told employees that they "suck." The police officer talks to both men, but as Gallo continues to speak loudly she tells him "I am the law."
Myrtle Beach Mayor Brenda Bethune complemented the officer's behaviors and called for viewers to learn all facts and not overreact.
Myrtle Beach Police released a statement Wednesday evening, shortly after the video spread across social media.
"Officers were dispatched to the location after receiving a call from an employee of the business, that a male was in the parking lot asking people for money,” Myrtle Beach Capt. Joey Crosby said in a prepared statement. “Upon arriving at the restaurant, an employee approached the officer and indicated the male was inside the establishment.
“The employee requested the officer issue a trespassing warning and asked that the person leave the premises. The officer advised the male of the request made by the business and issued the warning.
“A bystander, who was videotaping the incident was also trespassed from the location at the request of the manager for what management deemed as disorderly behavior,” Crosby said in the statement.
Crosby told The Sun News that the officer remains on duty. Her actions are under investigation, though he didn't have a timetable for a decision.
Owner and operator of the local McDonald's, Joel Pellicci Jr., released a statement through McDonald's corporate officials.
“At my restaurant, the goal is to provide our customers with a positive and welcoming experience each time they visit. Unfortunately, the individual in this video has a history of disruptive behavior and has been asked to leave by management and police on several occasions.”
As of Thursday afternoon, the video had 37 million views. Much of the social media reaction denounced the response of the police and eatery. A few posters voiced support for the cops.
Operations at the McDonald's were typical Thursday, though a few customers could be heard discussing the incident. Crosby said police normally patrol the area and were not making changes to procedures as a result of the situation. Around 2 p.m., there was a heavier police presence in the vicinity after a man with a rifle was reported nearby. That call went unfounded.
Mayor Bethune met with The Sun News Thursday afternoon. She said she reviewed the officer's body camera footage and believed her actions were appropriate.
"When things got out of hand was when the person shooting the video became irate with her and it’s her job to get stern when someone is threatening her and speaking to her in that tone of voice. But as far as the way she handled the gentleman who was in the McDonald’s, I think that she handled him very kindly," she said.
The social media reaction hurts Myrtle Beach's image, Bethune admitted. She added that perception can change by sharing full details of the incident.
"We need to be transparent, we need to be honest about what’s going on and we need to be in front of situations like this and handle them in a very responsible manner," Bethune said.