A large crowd gathered to remember the heroic life of Myrtle Beach police officer Joseph John McGarry Jr., whose watch came to a tragic end when he was killed in the line of duty on Dec. 29, 2002.
McGarry was shot in the face as he was questioning a man suspected in a previous homicide outside of a Dunkin’ Donuts on North Kings Highway at 12:30 a.m. that morning. He was 28 years old.
“Every surviving family member’s greatest fear after losing a loved one ... is that ... the sacrifices that their loved one made will be forgotten,” said Myrtle Beach police Capt. Eric DiLorenzo. “We gather this year for the 15th anniversary of the loss of a friend, a son, a fiance and a brother to many of us, Joe McGarry.”
Luzenski Allen Cottrell, now 40, was convicted of McGarry’s murder - in addition to two other killings - and was sentenced to death.
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McGarry and his partner, Mike Guthinger, were walking into Dunkin’ Donuts that night when Guthinger recognized Cottrell as a suspect in an Horry County shooting, according to court testimony.
The officers waited for Cottrell and others with him to leave the shop before confronting him on a sidewalk outside. A brief struggle ensued.
Cottrell pulled out a .45 caliber handgun and opened fire, fatally wounding McGarry, according to the Officer Down Memorial Page. Guthinger returned fire, striking Cottrell in the leg as he fled the scene.
McGarry had served four years with the Myrtle Beach Police Department and was working on the Street Crimes Unit the night he died. He had proposed to his girlfriend, Holly Newman Sinkway, on Christmas Eve morning just before the shooting. The two were engaged to be married.
“All of us that were lucky enough to know Joe, know that he would be proud of us. We’ve stuck together as a family through thick and thin,” DiLorenzo said. “Having the pleasure of knowing Joe, which thankfully many of us have, is to know that Joe is continuing to watch our back.”
“...Death ends a life, not a relationship,” DiLorenzo said. “The relationships that we formed with Joe are still very much alive today.”
Myrtle Beach police Captain Joey Crosby laid a memorial wreath by a monument erected near the Ted C. Collins Law Enforcement Center in McGarry’s honor.
Guthinger lit a memorial candle, encased in blue and shielded from the wind.
Cottrell was convicted of murder and sentenced to death in McGarry’s killing in April 2005. He appealed his conviction and in January 2008 the S.C. Supreme Court overturned his death sentence.
Jurors sentenced him to death, again, in September 2014 during a second trial.
Cottrell is being held on death row in the Kirkland Correctional Institution in Columbia.
South Carolina uses a lethal injection of three drugs for its preferred method of execution, although inmates can still opt for electrocution. The state has 39 people on death row. The last inmate to be scheduled for execution in six years was Bobby Wayne Stone who was set to die at 6 p.m. Friday, Dec. 1.
A stay was ordered on his execution as the state struggled to obtain the three drugs needed for his lethal injection. Stone has served 20 years on death row for the killing of a Sumter County deputy in 1997.
Cottrell has served more than 12 years on the row.