Myrtle Beach Mayor Brenda Bethune took to Facebook late last night to combat rumors of an active shooter at Broadway at the Beach after a fight broke out during a Fourth of July fireworks show.
In the post, Bethune said, "There was no active shooter and no shots fired at Broadway at the Beach."
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Capt. Joey Crosby with the Myrtle Beach Police Department said officers responded to the tourist attraction for a large fight. During the fight, someone in the crowd referenced a gun, which caused a panic and a few minor injuries.
However, there is no evidence that a shooting occurred at the venue or that anybody had a gun, Crosby said.
"As you can image, as you've covered and seen the coverage of these types of incidents nationwide, whether they're real or an incident like this, the responding officers get to the scene, they're being flooded with information," Crosby said.
In the beginning, the information is coming from people who were present during an incident. Crosby said officers take that information and the responding officers "can respond accordingly and then officers can take actions, whether it be telling individuals to get inside for the time being to make sure they're safe, or whatever the case may be."
According to John Pedersen, Myrtle Beach city manager, the initial call for service came in as a shots fired call.
"I'm just very grateful that it was not actually what social media was saying that it was and how unfortunate it is that word so quickly spread just based on false information because it did create mass hysteria in a very crowded atmosphere that could have been very easily avoided," Bethune said.
How did the city respond?
Beyond the police responding to the scene, many city and police officials took to social media to provide current information about what was happening at Broadway at the Beach.
"We do communicate with individuals, but I think it's paramount of any organization, when you have a situation like this that causes concern to the community that you try to provide them with factual information," Crosby said.
"You know, active shooter situations are a very hot topic right now in our nation," he said. "One of the things that you have to do is provide the public with real-time information, cause if it was real, where do individuals go to meet their family, how many are injured? Things such as that. If it's not, then we need to dispel that information and let everybody know that everything is safe as well."
Bethune said she took to Facebook to help dispel the rumors that were floating around on social media.
"I was just trying to help get the real message out as far as what was going on," Bethune said. "Just put people more at ease that this is not what is happening."
Will policing change at Broadway?
Moving forward, Bethune said she is not concerned the event, or the rumors, will affect tourism. However, the Myrtle Beach city manager said he is always concerned about how incidents are portrayed outside of Myrtle Beach.
"I think that is increasingly difficult in a society where people are getting so much of their news from social media, which doesn't necessarily report news but, as in this case, are reporting what people are saying," Pedersen said.
According to Pedersen, city police officers do patrol outside of Broadway at the Beach on the public road, but they do not go onto the private property.
Pedersen said it took officer 1 minute 44 seconds to respond to the scene.
Officials for Broadway at the Beach hire private security officers to patrol inside the venue.
In a statement on their Facebook page, a Broadway representative wrote: "Since its inception more than 20 years ago, Broadway at the Beach has worked hard to give its millions of annual visitors a safe, family-friendly experience. Our security team and staff remain deeply committed to making Broadway an enjoyable place for everyone."
Pedersen said the city increases the police presence when clubs are letting out. It is not clear at this time if there was an increased police presence at Broadway at the Beach for the July 4th event.
Recently, the security company and local business owners received active shooter training.
"There were many of the merchants there that responded exactly as they had been trained to respond, and helped us with the situation that kept a chaotic situation from becoming worse," Pedersen said. "You know, we're just very very pleased that it was not what it was initially called in to be."
In the future, Pedersen said officers will continue to patrol the streets outside of the venue, but will not work inside the area.