A Different World

Blog | Myrtle Beach police could have shot gun-wielding suspect during traffic stop - but didn’t

Over the past couple of weeks, I’ve been speaking with police and city officials, trying to dig a little more deeply into police-civilian relations for a piece that should be published in the coming weeks.

But I wanted to highlight one nugget city officials made me aware of.

Just this past week, a traffic stop in Myrtle Beach could have resulted in another police shooting - but didn’t.

According to city officials, on Wednesday night, Myrtle Beach police pulled over a vehicle with 4 men in it near Grey Street and Orange Street.

A passenger in the right rear of the car tried to “exit the rear door and while doing so brandished a handgun and pointed it” at an officer.

The officer was able to knock the handgun out of the suspect’s hand.

After a brief struggle, the suspect ran way. Officers gave chase on foot and noticed the suspect point an object at them while yelling, “F-[expletive] you, I’m gonna shoot you.”

“Officers noticed the object in his hand was a cellular telephone and were able to tackle him to the ground,” according to the report.

While on the ground, the suspect grabbed for the officer’s weapon, trying to take it from his holster, before he was handcuffed.

The suspect had heroin, according to the account.

The officers did not shoot him.

If accurate (I have no reason to believe it isn’t, though as we’ve come to learn initial incident reports aren’t always flawless), it shows the difficulty and dangerousness of the job of police officers.

And it illustrates that even in split-second encounters which potentially involve life and death decisions, officers can show incredible professionalism and de-escalate situations even when the people they are dealing with do just about everything to make things worse.

New city manager, John Pedersen, says the officers showed incredible restraint.

He’s right.

Such incidents don’t get as much press as those when things go wrong, but they should definitely be highlighted.

They demonstrate that plenty of officers are trying to diffuse even the toughest situations without first resorting to lethal methods.

They also show that it is possible - something to keep in mind as we continue discussing situations during which things turn deadly.

Another quick point:

Police officers and black men are essentially fighting a similar battle right now. Neither group wants to be defined by the worst acts and actors in their ranks. That’s why I will continue trying to remind people about the good being done by both those groups, which far outweighs the bad.

The difference is that societal and legal systems are in place to give officers the benefit of doubt while doing the opposite for too many black men - something that needs to be remedied.

This is a complicated issue that we all need to more carefully think through if we are to come to a better understanding, and I hope we do, because we must.

The good and the bad need to be examined, not just one or the other.