More than three weeks after a Facebook Live event showed a mass shooting on Ocean Boulevard that injured seven, Myrtle Beach police released the name of the suspect Tuesday morning.
Derias J’Shaun Little, of Mt. Gilead, N.C., faces seven charges of attempted murder as well as carjacking and possession of a weapon during a violent crime. His name was revealed to the media three minutes before his initial hearing.
Police say Little was known to have been “involved in gang activity” and knew his immediate victim in the shooting.
Little’s name was not listed on the incident report of the shooting where police typically identify suspects.
The police department said in June the suspect was shot and had been in the hospital since the event. Despite several requests over the past three weeks for the suspect’s name, Lt. Joey Crosby said they wouldn’t release his name because he hadn’t been charged.
They were waiting for him to be medically cleared and of “sound mind” to understand the warrants, Crosby said.
When The Sun News asked Myrtle Beach police to provide the specific exemptions under the Freedom of Information Act for which it’s allowed to withhold a suspect’s name in an incident report, attorney James Battle listed the following:
“SC Code Sec. 30-4-40(a)(3)(A): The disclosure of the suspect’s name would interfere with a prospective law enforcement proceeding. Specifically, the suspect has not been served with any arrest warrants and until warrants have been issued, the investigation is ongoing.
“SC Code Sec. 30-4-40(a)(3)(F): The disclosure of the suspect’s name would endanger the life or physical safety of the suspect. Specifically, the suspect is a patient in a hospital, and as such, if his name were released to the public, he would be vulnerable to retaliatory attack.”
South Carolina Press Association attorney Taylor M. Smith IV disagreed with the Myrtle Beach Police Department’s use of exemptions to not release the suspect’s name.
“There is no legal authority for the proposition that law enforcement can keep secret the identity of a person it has arrested simply because he or she has not been served with an arrest warrant,” Smith said. “Furthermore … it strains reason to suggest that the disclosure of this person’s name would interfere with the service of an arrest warrant when that person for all intents and purposes is already in police custody.”
SCPA Executive Director Bill Rogers echoed Smith’s reaction.
“It is a dangerous precedent when police can hold somebody and refuse to release his name,” Rogers said. “The law clearly says this information should be released, so I don’t know what kind of game they’re playing with the public’s confidence.”
South Carolina’s open records law allows the public and media the opportunity to view and inspect public records. Police incident reports from the past 14 days are to be readily available, do not require a FOIA request and should include the nature, substance and location of any crime as well as the names of witnesses, victims and suspects.
Law enforcement officials are allowed to exempt some information in limited situations. If information has been redacted, the public is allowed to request the specific exemptions that are used and officials are required under law to provide the exemption.