Weekend of violence has Myrtle Beach officials on damage control

akelley@thesunnews.comMay 26, 2014 

Myrtle Beach Police investigate where two bodies are behind sheets on the walkway that's over a water park in front of Bermuda Sands Resort late Saturday, May 24, 2014. Police report three people were killed and two were injured in multiple shootings late Saturday. The first shooting was around 9:30 p.m. at 6th Avenue South. While police were at the scene another shooting occurred at Bermuda Sands Resort about seven blocks north. One man was taken to the hospital from the first shooting. Two people were killed in the second shooting and two were taken to the hospital. One person taken to the hospital in the second shooting died. Photo by Janet Blackmon Morgan /jblackmon@thesunnews.com

JANET BLACKMON MORGAN — jblackmon@thesunnews.com

— Several shootings on Memorial Day weekend have Grand Strand officials on damage control working to spread the word to visitors and residents that the area is safe.

Three people were killed and seven injured in five confirmed shootings over the weekend, but Myrtle Beach Police Capt. David Knipes said there were several more reports of shootings or sounds of gunshots that were unconfirmed.

The violence struck a nerve with Myrtle Beach Area Chamber of Commerce President Brad Dean.

“Unfortunately, none of us are surprised, as the Memorial Day motorcycle rally continues to create unanswered challenges for the community and visitors,” he said. “Safety is a necessity for a tourism destination to thrive and no amount of publicity and promotion will counter the bad publicity generated this weekend.”

State Rep. Tracy Edge also issued a statement after the shootings saying the cities and law enforcement need to “take back the streets and make the Grand Strand safer for residents, business owners and visitors.”

Edge said additional law enforcement assistance should be used next year.

Not all believe the Atlantic Beach Memorial Day BikeFest crowds are to blame, and no connection has been made between any of the shootings and the rally. Atlantic Beach Town Manager William Booker said the shootings are tragic, but doesn’t think they were related to the town’s annual event.

“We had nothing of that magnitude,” he said. “We had no problems in Atlantic Beach. We had no arrests and we had very few citations ... From our perspective what happened in Myrtle Beach was totally unrelated.”

No arrests had been made as of Monday evening. Last year, Myrtle Beach had two homicides. To see three in one night was concerning, Knipes said.

“It’s a very high and alarming number,” he said.

Jamie Williams, 28, of Ladson, and Devonte Dantzler, 21, and Sandy Gaddis Barnwell, 22, both of Summerville, were pronounced dead by Horry County Deputy Coroner Darris Fowler on Saturday. Fowler said all three died from gunshot wounds sustained during a shooting at Bermuda Sands Resort on 1st Avenue North.

Officers responded at about 11 p.m. Saturday to a reported large fight outside the Bermuda Sands. Three shots were fired before police arrived, striking Keith Williams. As police were providing medical attention to Keith Williams, those involved in the fight moved to the second floor of Bermuda Sands, according to the release.

After about five minutes, officers said the shooter then went to the second floor of the hotel and fired several shots at Jamie Williams, Dantzler and Barnwell, who police say were involved in the fight.

Police believe the shooter fled the rear of the hotel.

Jamie Williams and Dantzler died immediately, and Barnwell and Keith Williams were taken to Grand Strand Regional Medical Center with gunshot wounds. Barnwell was pronounced dead at the hospital.

On Saturday, another person was injured in a shooting at 6th Avenue South and Ocean Boulevard, two were injured in a shooting at 8th Avenue North and Ocean Boulevard and one was shot in the leg at the Fountain Bleu Motel at 7th Avenue North and Flagg Street.

On Sunday, two were injured in a shooting at the Wave Rider Resort at 1600 South Ocean Boulevard.

Knipes said every available officer was working this weekend. He said changes to enforcement in years ahead have not yet been discussed.

“It’s too early to tell,” he said Monday. “It’s not over. We haven’t looked at stats or sat down and discussed things. It’s not just a police issue, but a community issue that will have to be discussed over time.

“Most of the crowd is not on bikes,” Knipes said. “They could be here because of the BikeFest, but it’s hard to tell.”

Police ask that anyone who witnessed the incident or has cellphone video to email btruex@cityofmyrtlebeach.com or call 918-1382.

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