Crime

Suspect killed by Myrtle Beach police seen with rifle, possibly tied to break-in: reports

A man shot by Myrtle Beach police was seen holding a rifle around the time he was killed, according to an incident report.

Although Myrtle Beach police refuse to release details of the events leading up to the deadly shooting, an analysis by The Sun News shows several breaks-ins and other crimes in the vicinity, hours before the shooting. While not all can be tied directly to Matthew Graham, at least one report lists his name as a suspect.

Two Myrtle Beach police officers shot and killed Graham, 32, of Loris, near Timberline Street and 65th Avenue North around 2 a.m. Saturday.

Myrtle Beach police officials declined to say if the break-ins were connected to the officer-involved shooting. Cpl. Thomas Vest referred questions to the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division, which is investigating Saturday’s shooting.

According to the Myrtle Beach incident report on the shooting, officers responded to Lagoon Place around 1:20 a.m. for a report of a stolen bicycle. The report lists Graham as the lone suspect in the case.

The victim said a $600 bicycle was stolen from his garage between 4 p.m. Friday and 1 a.m. Saturday. Nobody was home when the item went missing, according to the report.

A neighbor also said a man climbed over a fence using a ladder taken from an unlocked shed around midnight, according to the report. Police said they soon created a perimeter around Graham as he hid in a wooded area near 65th Avenue and Wildwood Trail, the report states.

Around 2 a.m., Myrtle Beach police officers say they saw Graham riding a stolen bike. He was also seen “holding a rifle in the area of 65th Avenue North and Wedgewood Street, which is where an officer-involved shooting took place,” the report states.

Steve Banks was in his yard when he saw several police cruisers chasing Graham on a bike around 2 a.m. Banks told The Sun News he did not see a weapon in Graham’s hands as he peddled down Timberline Street and turned to 65th Avenue North.

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Graphic by Josh Bell

Earlier incidents

Graham also was a suspect in an aggravated assault near 65th Avenue North and North Kings Highway, according to a separate incident report. The victim said Graham drove a burgundy golf cart erratically and almost hit the victim’s vehicle.

The victim said Graham parked in front of him, made a threat and then began “reaching for something.”

Around the same time as the golf cart incident, a victim on the 7000 block of Porcher Drive said his red golf cart was stolen from his garage.

The golf cart was later found at 6301 Wildwood Trail, the report states.

A resident on the 6700 block of Bryant Street also reported a Friday burglary at his home. There is no suspect information listed in the report. The victim said an Xbox, a laptop, an AR-15 rifle and a Remington Rifle were taken from his home.

No reports say if the rifle Graham was reportedly seen with before the shooting was either of the ones taken from the Bryant Street home.

Myrtle Beach police have not identified the officers involved in the shooting, but neither were hurt, Vest said. Vest said on Monday the officers names “have not been released.” Myrtle Beach police policy states that after a deadly shooting, officers are put on paid administrative leave and must meet with a mental health counselor.

In addition to the SLED investigation, Myrtle Beach police will review the shooting.

Criminal history

Matthew Graham has an extensive criminal history in Horry County, based on court records. He has pending charges for manufacturing meth and distributing drugs. Horry County police arrested him in late May on those charges. He was released from J. Reuben Long Detention Center in June.

Horry County police again arrested Graham on Sept. 18 for possession of less than a gram of drugs, and he was released on bond on Sept. 24.

According to court records, Graham was sentenced to five years in prison in 2012 for grand larceny and third-degree arson. A Matthew Graham is listed on the South Carolina Probation, Parole and Pardon offender list, but it does not list a home county. The Matthew Graham on the probation list shares the same name and birth year with the Matthew Graham with the criminal history in Horry County.

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Alex Lang is the True Crime reporter for The Sun News covering the legal system and how crime impacts local residents. He says letting residents know if they are safe is a vital role of a newspaper. Alex has covered crime in Detroit, Iowa, New York City, West Virginia and now Horry County.
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