Listen to what the police knew as the shooting scare unfolded at Broadway
Panic spread across Broadway at the Beach during the Fourth of July fireworks show.
As fireworks lit the the night sky, awe was replaced by fear and thousands of people ran for their lives believing there was an active shooter at one of the area's most popular attractions.
A nightmare for many was unfolding in Myrtle Beach.
But, police say there was no active shooter, or even shots fired. It was a fight where someone referenced a gun, sending rumors through the crowd.
“I think it was a domino effect, where everyone heard about it and it spread,” said Karen Chipps, a bartender at Oz nightclub.
'It was just a panic'
Myrtle Beach native Viki Draper's 7-year-old son played on the playground as the family awaited the start of the fireworks show. The crowd came running toward them and one person yelled "shooter."
The family ran toward their car and Draper, who is eight months pregnant, was elbowed in the stomach and nearly pushed down, she said. Her son also was elbowed in the head.
"All I could hear was my son screaming," she said. "He heard someone say gun and thought the shooter was right behind us."
Jake Carr visited the Myrtle Beach area from Illinois with his three teenage kids, his wife and one of the kid’s girlfriend. They sat on a sidewalk near Yamato Steakhouse to watch the fireworks. Soon after the show started, a crowd ran toward them. The look on their faces was one of panic.
"We just looked at each other, 'Something's not right, let’s go,'” Carr said. “It was just a panic.”
The family hurried through bushes back to their car, where inside they tuned to a police scanner so they could learn what was happening. While people — and their kids — can't live in fear of what might happen, Carr said they need to be aware of their surroundings.
"I think we handed it well, we did the right thing," he said.
At Paula Dean’s restaurant, Jeff Boswell was eating with other family members and saw people scramble by the windows. Their server approached and said there were reports of a shooting and they needed to stay inside.
“They locked the doors downstairs,” Boswell said.
At one point, Boswell said they heard several "pops" inside the restaurant and went into a cooler to hide. Someone eventually knocked on the door and said it was safe to leave.
Melissa Kohler-Dembeck grabbed her kids and took off running when they saw the crowd. She, her husband and the kids took shelter in a hotel and were told there were three shooters with rifles. Kohler-Dembeck wrote in a message that she didn't know what to do and the hardest part was seeing her kids terrified.
"I’m still so emotional about it today and have been crying on and off. I could not fall asleep last night. It was so scary," she wrote.
The family returned to Broadway Thursday morning to look for the stroller they had to leave behind.
In the parking lot near the amusement rides, Hannah Queen watched the fireworks with her boyfriend. A crowd ran toward them shouting about the rumored shooting.
“I was freaking out,” Queen said.
They went 100 yards back to the car and tried to leave, but were stuck in traffic. The two asked those walking by about what happened and several said there was an active shooter.
“There was like a million cops all over the place,” she said.
'No one was injured as a result of a shooting'
A heavy police presence descended on Broadway at the Beach between 21st Avenue and 29th Avenue. Around 10:18 p.m., officers first reported the incident to dispatchers.
“I got a large amount of people running away from Broadway saying there were gunshots,” an officer says on police radio traffic.
Seconds later an officer says he doesn’t see a shooting, though an off-duty police officer told him someone fired inside the complex. Within a minute, the nearest officers again report that they don’t see anything, but people are fleeing the area.
“I’ve had at least five people stop me with my blue-lights on telling me there’s a shooting by the bridge, send all units towards the bridge,” an officer says on the radio.
Officers also ask to stopped the fireworks show.
Dozens posted on social media about there being a shooter in the complex.
Myrtle Beach Police Capt. Joey Crosby quickly released a statement and took to social media to report there was no shooting. The department continued its investigation Thursday.
Emergency dispatchers received more than 1,200 related calls to 911 in the two hours following the incident. Officials said police responded one minute and 44 seconds after the initial call.
There were no reports of significant injuries during the panic. Ambulances responded and at least one person was taken to the hospital.
Traffic quickly turned to gridlock as attendees tried to escape in their cars.
“There was not a shooting,” Crosby said. “No one was injured as a result of a shooting. There is no cover up. There was a thorough investigation this morning.
“We are still standing by that this incident resulted as a fight and in that fight, someone mentioned the word gun, and people began to run from the scene, which created the confusion and chaos.”
'We couldn’t be more sorry that this occurred'
Officials with Broadway at the Beach released a statement on Facebook Thursday afternoon.
"What happened at our July 4th celebration last night was a terrible turn of events for everyone concerned. A false rumor that there was an active shooter on the property generated widespread panic and fear," the statement reads. "We know this was terrifying and we couldn’t be more sorry that this occurred.
"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."