August 20, 2014

Myrtle Beach police ask Summerville residents for help in Memorial Day weekend killings, offer reward

Police released video of a possible suspect in the triple homicide

Myrtle Beach police traveled to Summerville on Wednesday to urge anyone with information about the shooting deaths of three people at a motel during Memorial Day weekend to contact them or Crime Stoppers.

Three people, all from the Summerville area, were killed in a shooting May 24 at Bermuda Sands Resort on Ocean Boulevard in Myrtle Beach, prompting Grand Strand officials to spend months looking for ways to make things safer next year.

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.

No arrests have been made. Crime Stoppers is offering a $1,000 reward for a tip that leads to the arrest and indictment of a suspect or suspects. Police also released a slowed down version of a video recording taken during a fight leading to the shooting that they say may show the shooter.

Myrtle Beach Detective Will Kitelinger was joined by family members of the victims at a news conference in Summerville on Wednesday to ask for the public’s help.

"I want people to see it isn't just law enforcement looking for answers, it's family looking for answers," Kitelinger said.

Barnwell’s aunt said Wednesday that the hearts of family members are broken and urged the public to help them find out what happened.

“We need you to help us,” Melody Gaddis McFadden told reporters at the news conference. “We need information as to what happened here. Don’t wait until it’s your family. Don’t wait until it’s your child.”

Kitelinger says the case is a tough one because the victims were all from the Summerville area and the perpetrators could be from somewhere else in the U.S.

“It’s a very, very difficult case for law enforcement,” he said. “The victims were visiting. It’s also possible the suspects were visiting. The suspects who perpetrated this crime could very well be from a different part of the United States altogether.”

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.

Kitelinger said Myrtle Beach Police have interviewed dozens of people and followed up on dozens of leads.

“Some of that information led us to the fact that perhaps there were people in this local community that had additional information and for whatever reason were unable to or unwilling to come forward,” he said.

Police have said the shootings resulted from a large fight and afterward said they thought they could have been gang-related. But on Wednesday, Kitelinger said he had no information “that the cause of the homicides was related to any gang stuff whatsoever.”

Myrtle Beach police Chief Warren Gall told The Sun News in June that people said the shooting might be gang-related, but that the investigation had not determined a connection.

“That’s been said and that’s based upon our victims and their histories and who they’ve been hanging with,” Gall said in June.

According to a Myrtle Beach police press release, officers responded at about 11 p.m. May 24 for a reported large fight on Ocean Boulevard. 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.

Last month, Gov. Nikki Haley visited Atlantic Beach and urged the town council to end the biker festival. In return, she said, the state would work with the town to transform it into a family-friendly destination that tourists from across the nation will visit.

Atlantic Beach Mayor Jake Evans has repeatedly said the town has no plans to end the Bikefest.

State lawmakers approved a budget measure that will allow Grand Strand governments to use up to $5 million in accommodations tax money to pay for additional law enforcement during May events; Myrtle Beach officials have held several closed meetings to discuss safety and security changes for next year’s Memorial Day weekend; and Myrtle Beach police will hold a summit in September for law enforcement officers from across the country to share best practices for handling large special events.

Contact Crime Stoppers at 1-888-CRIME-SC.

The Associated Press and The Post & Courier contributed to this report.

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