COLUMBIA — Gov. Henry McMaster pledged Wednesday the state will take “whatever measures necessary” to help Myrtle Beach maintain a family-friendly reputation after a rash of shootings in its tourism district during Father’s Day weekend.
After the fifth shooting in three days on Monday night, McMaster scheduled a Thursday meeting with State Law Enforcement Division Chief Mark Keel, local law enforcement and local political leaders to determine how the state can help.
“We want to be sure that whatever resources are needed to make sure that all of our vacation places — as well as our other cities and towns — are safe (are available),” the governor said after a ceremonial bill signing at the S.C. Farmers Market in Dixiana.
“Myrtle Beach is a beautiful beach and it has a wonderful reputation,” he added. “And what’s happened there recently is an aberration.”
The meeting between McMaster and law enforcement is expected to be held behind closed doors, but the governor’s schedule says he, Keel and local leaders will speak to the media at about 12:30 p.m. at the Myrtle Beach General Aviation Airport.
“(Myrtle Beach is) one of the most family-oriented, safe places around,” he said. “And we’ll take whatever measures necessary to keep it that way.”
Myrtle Beach police spokesman Lt. Joey Crosby said the department welcomes the conversation and looks forward to learning how SLED might help. He confirmed the city planned to ask for help providing a police presence on the main tourist drag.
“We will be seeking SLED support through the use of their agents to assist us along Ocean Boulevard to help supplement our officers who are working long hours,” he said.
Myrtle Beach City Council also met Tuesday in response to last weekend’s violence, during which six people were injured in a shootout on Ocean Boulevard caught live on Facebook. The spate of violence followed an earlier series of shootings the week of Easter.
Myrtle Beach Police Chief Amy Prock told council members Tuesday the shooting that was broadcast live and seen by millions was done by a 17-year-old North Carolina youth who is involved with a gang.
The suspect was injured by an armed security officer during the incident and is expected to be charged with seven counts of attempted murder and one count each of carjacking and possession of a firearm during a violent crime when he is released from the hospital.
This is the second time in recent years that a high-profile shooting on Ocean Boulevard is allegedly tied to gang activity. In 2014, three men died in a shooting and a fourth was injured outside of a hotel during Memorial Day weekend.
Myrtle Beach police believe at least some of those victims, all from the Summerville area, and the potential shooter were involved with gangs. Police have yet to make an arrest in that case.
McMaster said he doesn’t believe gangs are an issue in Myrtle Beach — or South Carolina.
“We have been very vigilant in law enforcement with gangs and other such related crimes, and that is not a problem for us here as it is for many other places around the country,” he said.
State and local officials are trying protect South Carolina’s most popular tourist destination, a top tax generator, during its peak summer season. Tourists spent nearly $4 billion in Horry County in 2015, almost double the amount spent in Charleston County, according to a report from the U.S. Travel Association.
Reach Maya T. Prabhu at 843-509-8933.