Myrtle Beach police to travel to Summerville for help investigating fatal Memorial Day weekend shootings

08/19/2014 5:27 PM

08/19/2014 5:28 PM

Myrtle Beach police plan to travel to Summerville on Wednesday in an attempt to get information about a triple homicide that took place Memorial Day weekend as Myrtle Beach City Council continues to discuss strategies for curbing violence during next year’s celebration.

Council members held a two-hour-long closed meeting Monday and have yet to announce plans for additional security next year.

Chief Warren Gall said members of the Myrtle Beach Police Department will hold a press conference 1 p.m. Wednesday at the Summerville Police Department, 300 W. Second N. St., in an attempt to get information that could help them with their investigation. All three victims in the May 24 shooting were from the Summerville area.

Jamie Williams, 28, of Ladson, and Devonte Dantzler, 21, and Sandy Gaddis Barnwell, 22, both of Summerville, were killed in the shooting that stemmed from a large fight, police said. A fourth person, Keith Williams of Lincolnville, was injured in the shooting. Six others were injured seven separate shootings that weekend.

Myrtle Beach police have said the triple fatal shooting may have been the result of possible gang activity.

Myrtle Beach officials have been holding closed meetings to discuss ways to get the violence seen that weekend under control since Memorial Day.

“We’re not ready to discuss the plans being made,” Myrtle Beach Mayor John Rhodes said after Monday’s closed session. “But we’re not sitting back and twiddling our thumbs.”

Rhodes said he expects to share some of the security plan with the public within the next 60 days.

City Council cited a rule in state law that allows public bodies to discuss certain topics in closed session.

According to S.C. law, a public body may meet in closed session to discuss development of security personnel or devices, personnel issues, contractual arrangements, receive legal advice, for proceedings regarding criminal allegations, and matters relating to the location or expansion of industries or other businesses.

Several thousand visitors come to the Grand Strand that weekend to attend the Atlantic Beach Bikefest, Military Appreciation Days, or to take advantage of a three-day weekend at the beach.

City spokesman Mark Kruea said some of the things being discussed to beef up security during Memorial Day weekend are having additional law enforcement in town, bringing back a dedicated emergency lane and configuring a traffic flow that makes things safe for pedestrians.

“There definitely will be changes in the wake of last year’s Memorial Day event,” Kruea said.

The S.C. General Assembly approved a last-minute budget amendment in June that allows up to one third of accommodations taxes returned to Horry County – or municipalities in Horry County – to be set aside to pay for public safety during events held in May.

That could result in up to $5 million coming to Horry County and municipalities within the county – and up to $2.3 million available just to Myrtle Beach – to pay for additional law enforcement next May.

The city also could drum up additional funds to pay for law enforcement during Memorial Day weekend when council approves a budget amendment to adjust the base millage after the county’s reassessment of property values.

A budget passed by City Council in June included a 3 mill increase – raising the rate to 69.1 mills – that will pay for 10 additional sworn police officers to patrol the oceanfront area and the south end of the city. Budget director Michael Shelton said the 3 mill increase will bring in an estimated $900,000 in revenue next fiscal year, which would pay salaries, benefits, equipment and training.

In June, Councilman Wayne Gray suggested the idea of increasing the property tax rate an additional 3 mills to raise money to pay for additional law enforcement during Memorial Day weekend.

Gray said he thinks the budget amendment to address reassessment could be introduced in late August or early September.

“Tom Leath said ... he felt like he and his staff would present City Council with a [safety and security] plan in the next few weeks,” Gray said on Sunday. “Would the plan consider a tax increase? I don’t know.”

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