A viral Facebook video showing a police officer asking a homeless man to leave a Myrtle Beach McDonald's has prompted a response from Myrtle Beach Mayor Brenda Bethune, who showed her support for the officer and the police department.
Bethune met with The Sun News to release a statement Thursday afternoon after the video reached nearly 37 million people after it was posted on Facebook Wednesday afternoon.
"It makes me very sad that we live in a society where a business owner is trying to protect his staff and his customers and our police department are trying to do what’s best when a business owner calls them and that people can turn that around to such hatred to the point of making threats and just going above and beyond what a normal reaction to a situation like this should be," Bethune said. "When the real story should be, what are we doing for our homeless population?
"They are a part of our community, and our police are very involved in helping them. They work very closely with the four homeless shelters that we have throughout the city limits, and they help our homeless on a daily manner. So I think it’s very sad that it’s come to this. It does hurt Myrtle Beach, it hurts the image of our police department, which I feel they do an incredible job and I know they work as hard as they can in situation like this to be human and to treat people just with a lot of respect and dignity."
The video was posted by Yossi Gallo on Wednesday, and takes place inside the 220 N. Kings Highway McDonald's.
In the video, Gallo said that he brought the homeless man into the restaurant to purchase him a meal. A statement released by the Myrtle Beach Police Department states the man was asked to leave the property after allegedly asking people for money.
Gallo said in the video the man did not ask him for money. Rather, Gallo chose to purchase him food.
"I’m getting kicked out of here because I gave a homeless guy food!,” Gallo said on the video.
Many of the viewers have issued criticism toward the police officer on scene and how she handled the situation.
After watching a body camera from the officer, Bethune said, "She handled herself by following proper protocol, but not only following it, I feel that she exceeded it. She communicated with this particular gentleman in a very kind and empathetic manner and I felt that she did her job in a very professional way.
"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."
The Sun News has requested access to the body camera footage.
After the video went viral, Bethune said the city has received many phone calls "practically from everywhere. But I feel, yeah, you can take two sides to this. You can either be quiet or you can get the truth out. And my position is I think it’s best for the community, I think it’s best for the city, it’s best for our police department that people really know what the truth is in a situation like this."
Bethune declined to comment on the nature of the phone calls.
Now, Bethune said it is important to tell the truth about what happened during the incident.
"I think it’s important for people not to just overreact to what they first see and hear, but to really get the facts of the matter," she said.
Moving forward Bethune said she will continue to work with council, focusing on a need to be transparent and honest about what's going on.