Myrtle Beach sued for excessive force in fatal officer-involved shooting

The mother of a man who was killed in an officer-involved shooting in 2017 after driving recklessly on Ocean Boulevard is suing the City of Myrtle Beach and the two officers who shot at her son.

The excessive force suit from Fatima Antoinette Rhynes was filed Aug. 30 in federal district court on behalf of her son, Jarvis Omar Hayes, of Greensboro, North Carolina.

Hayes died from gunshot wounds after being transported to a hospital on Sept. 3, 2017.

The suit claims that police “used excessive force because the City did not properly train them and the individual Defendants acted in a willful and wanton manner.”

Rhynes’ attorney Walter Ameika Jr., said their position is that the police’s actions were unreasonable, and they had other options to resolve the situation without fatally shooting Hayes.

Myrtle Beach police were alerted to the Sea Mist Resort at 1305 S. Ocean Blvd. for a driver of a white Jaguar who tried to run over a security guard and maintenance worker, according to an investigative SLED report written regarding the shooting.

A witness also stopped officers and told them of the same car that was driving recklessly in the Ocean Boulevard area, the report states. Police identified Hayes as the driver. Video surveillance showed Hayes driving on a sidewalk and darting into oncoming traffic.

Fox and Field Training Officer Amanda Crago attempted to pull Hayes over at the Mystic Sea Motel, where the shooting occurred.

Officers and witnesses reported that police were outside their vehicle and told Hayes to stop his car, according to the report. Myrtle Beach Police Officer Drew Fox, one of the officers named in the suit, reported that cops told Hayes to stop and Hayes said “he was going to stop, but it was OK because he was a cop,” but continued to drive.

Hayes sped up and collided with Fox’s patrol vehicle and two other cars, according to the report.

Justin Lieberth, the other officer named in the suit, told investigators that he ran from across the street to the stop and saw Fox with his gun drawn, the report states.

Cpl. David BeLue arrived as backup and was in Hayes’ path when he hit Fox’s cruiser, according to the investigation.

BeLue’s right leg was trapped between two vehicles, but the injuries were later described as minor, according to the report. BeLue told investigators he heard the shooting as he tried to free himself. He retreated by scooting across the hood of a cruiser, and once he was across, the shooting stopped.

Fox and Lieberth both fired shots and hit Hayes, according to the report.

Lieberth said he saw BeLue on top of a cruiser in an effort to avoid being struck. Lieberth fired until he saw Hayes’ vehicle stop, according to the investigation. Fox told investigators that he feared Hayes would use his vehicle against him or police. Fox saw Hayes accelerate and appear to strike BeLue. Fox said he fired until he believed he was out of ammunition.

No criminal charges were filed in the case, as 15th Judicial District Solicitor Jimmy Richardson wrote that “there is no evidence of chargeable wrongdoing” by Fox and Lieberth.

Hayes’ blood alcohol content was .237, nearly three times the legal driving limit of .08, according to the toxicology report.

“You have uncovered substantial evidence to show [Hayes] was acting intoxicated and driving in a manner that threatened the lives of members of the general public on Ocean Boulevard that night,” Richardson wrote. “The life of the officer hit by the subject’s car was threatened to the point his fellow officers who witnessed this believed they must fire their weapons in defense of this officer.”

One witness reported that a police cruiser rammed the Jaguar and then officers got out and shot the driver, the report states. The driver tried to get out of the passenger side of the car. However, SLED Special Agent Tina Carter, who filed the report, noted that the statement was inconsistent with forensic and video evidence.

Another witness stated that officers signaled to the vehicle to pull over and he continued to drive. Then, officers fired until Hayes was “no longer moving; bleeding and dead and kept shooting.”

Dashcam footage of the incident was released to the public last year, and it showed officers screaming at Hayes to put his car in park, him accelerating his car toward them and officers firing more than a dozen shots.

Myrtle Beach and the officers haven’t yet been issued a summons for the case, and city spokesman Mark Kruea wrote in an email that he hadn’t seen it, and they don’t typically comment on pending litigation.

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Investigative project reporter David Weissman joined The Sun News after three years working at The York Dispatch in Pennsylvania, where he earned awards for his investigative reports on topics including health, business, politics and education.