Five shootings in three days in Myrtle Beach sparked a firestorm of complaints from both tourists and locals, igniting the city council to hold a special meeting at 2 p.m. today to address the recent violence.
“Y’all have let this town get out of control! You need to take this city back or get out, all of you!” Myrtle Beach resident, Joe McVay told the council.
Two months after four people were wounded in six shootings over five days during the week of Easter - another rash of shootings began on Saturday. One of them, happened in the middle of a sidewalk crowded with tourists and left seven people wounded.
That shooting was captured in a Facebook Live video that went viral and ended up in national news.
“What else do we have to say?” Myrtle Beach resident David Weber asked the council. “The facts are our tourism is going to drop. We have to deal with that. … Advertising isn’t going to help it.”
Myrtle Beach Area Chamber of Commerce CEO Brad Dean made a similar remark.
“No amount of paid advertisement will overcome the amount of publicity we’ve had in the last couple of days,” Dean said, added that they can’t undo the bad publicity. ““I can message safety a lot better than I can message mayhem.”
He said “it’s imperative” that officers have the resources they need to do their job.
“We can’t let this criminal behavior wreak havoc on our community,” Dean said.
Mark Lazarus, Horry County Council chairman, said the recent rash of violence is not just happening in Myrtle Beach.
“It’s not just in Myrtle Beach. It’s not just in Horry County. It’s all over the United States,” he said. “We’re dealing with challenging times, attitudes and social media, which amplifies and sensationalizes (situations).”
But he said that he, too, is “concerned of the violence.”
“It started in Easter and 60 days later, it’s the worst shooting in the city’s history,” said Mark McBride, former Myrtle Beach mayor.
It was standing-room only in the council chambers at the Ted C. Collins Law Enforcement Center where residents filed in, demanding change.
“I think a state of emergency should be declared,” said Peter Kalbacher, a Myrtle Beach resident, who called for the resignation of the mayor and city manager and the suspension of the city’s attorney to loud applause. “I think the governor should bring in the state police. ... Get rid of the Chamber of Commerce.”
Other residents called for the city to take some of the Chamber’s $30 million A-tax money (used to promote the city and boost tourism) to pay for extra officers and for better pay to be given to those who serve on the force.
“Take 80 percent of their budget away from them and you give that to the police department,” McVay said. “We don’t need the chamber bringing in more people if we can’t protect them.”
Our police department is one of the top 20 worst paid departments in the country, Anthony Calhoun told the council.
“I want a change today. Not tomorrow, today,” Calhoun said. “We the people deserve it because people are dying out there.”
“I don’t want any of you to get off the council until we get this job done,” Myrtle Beach resident Patrick Nolan told council members. “We’ve got to get this city under control.”
Lazarus and Dean had both pledged support in helping the city break free of the violence.
“We will not allow. I reiterate we will not allow the actions of a few to jeopardize what we and our founding fathers have built: the number one vacation destination on the east coast,” Lazarus said.
The city council was preparing to go into a closed session to discuss policing needs and techniques, when Councilman Wayne Gray asked if they could stay in open session to be transparent.
After a short break, the council resumed in open session to hear more about the police’s response to the mass shooting outside the Wayfarer Motel early Sunday morning.
Check back for more on this developing story.