South Carolina

McMaster promises ‘whatever it takes’ on Myrtle Beach crime

Gov. Henry McMaster met with local law enforcement, Myrtle Beach officials and the area’s state delegation Tuesday, saying the state would devote whatever resources were necessary after six shootings in three days.

“Whatever it takes, we’re going to do it all,” McMaster told reporters after a roughly 45-minute meeting with Myrtle Beach officials and area law enforcement leaders.

And beefed-up law enforcement presence in the city is expected to last through Labor Day, Lt. Joey Crosby said.

But McMaster and local police differed on the details surrounding a high-profile shooting that has drawn national attention to the resort town — and partially prompted the meeting.

The city is working to repair its sense of safety and reputation after multiple shootings. On Thursday before McMaster arrived in town, metal barricades went up along 28 blocks of Ocean Boulevard, Myrtle Beach’s main thoroughfare next to the ocean. The street was the site of a shooting that sent six people to the hospital early Sunday — and was viewed more than 4 million times after being broadcast on Facebook live.

The barricades, part of immediate safety steps being taken by the city after a Tuesday city council meeting, were installed from 17th Avenue South to 7th Avenue North; from 8th to 9th avenues North; and from 12th to 16th avenues North.

McMaster did not give details on what funding or how many officers might be sent to Myrtle Beach, which has been using assistance from outside law enforcement agencies since April, when a string of shootings began Easter weekend. But he said “many more” officers would come to the area to stave off violence that he called an “aberration.”

He also brushed off the suggestion that heavy police presence might be alarming to visitors.

“These police officers are not strangers to this area, and some will be visible and others will not be, and that’s the way good policing works,” he said.

Gang activity

McMaster already was scheduled to visit town for events hosted by chambers of commerce in North Myrtle Beach and Myrtle Beach, but added the law enforcement meeting to his schedule late Monday night, after the sixth recent shooting was reported.

In three interviews with press Thursday, he told The Sun News that the shootings were not keeping with the broad reputation of Myrtle Beach and the Grand Strand as a place families and children can come to relax and have fun.

But in his first appearance Thursday he also said that the Sunday morning shooting on Ocean Boulevard was not gang-related, in contrast with what police have said about the case so far.

“We think this was not a gang event, but you always have people, anywhere you find young people, you’re liable to find some that may be associated with a gang somewhere, one time or another,” he said. “But this is, this began simply as a crowd that got rowdy, got out of control — of course with firearms involved.”

But police have said more than once that the suspected shooter, a 17-year-old-male from North Carolina, is thought to be involved in a gang. Interim Myrtle Beach Police Chief Amy Prock said Tuesday that the shooter knew his immediate victim; Crosby confirmed Thursday that police investigations have determined the shooting was tied to a gang that primarily operates out of the area.

McMaster said later in the day, when The Sun News mentioned police did suspect a gang, that the possibility was discussed in the law enforcement meeting.

“In the meeting, we discussed that. You always want to run those details down and see exactly what you’re dealing with,” he said. “But that was not a typical gang operation out there. I mean, that was not a gang — it didn’t appear, so far, to be a gang-type fight.”

Officer levels

McMaster declined to say how much money might be put into law enforcement efforts in Myrtle Beach. Several agencies were involved in planning with him Thursday morning, however, including leaders of the State Law Enforcement Division, the S.C. Highway Patrol, the S.C. Department of Public Safety, the Horry County Police Department, the Horry County Sheriff’s Office, North Myrtle Beach police and Myrtle Beach police. City Manager John Pedersen and Mayor John Rhodes also attended the morning meeting.

All of those agencies have been helping Myrtle Beach patrol its main tourist areas this summer. During the Sunday morning shooting, 46 officers from inside and outside of the city were patrolling the waterfront area.

Myrtle Beach already has budgeted for five new police officers after the Easter string of shootings, but the new personnel likely won’t hit the streets for up to a year — in part because of backlogs in training at the state’s lone Criminal Justice Academy.

McMaster did not say whether law enforcement training in the state should be expanded or more fully funded, though he expressed confidence in local authorities.

“We need more money devoted to a lot of things, but we are, of course, we’re managing scarcity,” McMaster said.

“These officers know each other, they’re professional, they have ample resources,” he added.

Chloe Johnson: 843-626-0381, @_ChloeAJ

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