Myrtle Beach shootings tied to motorcycle rally?

Thousands of motorcyclists gather in the Myrtle Beach, SC, area for a rally every spring. Police are investigating whether a series of fatal shootings Saturday is tied to the biker rally.

Janet Blackmon Morgan/The Sun News/AP
State Law Enforcement Department officers handcuff a man at the scene of the multiple shootings in Myrtle Beach, SC. Police report three people were killed and one was injured late Saturday.

Six shootings across Myrtle Beach, S.C. this weekend left three people dead, breaking the beachside resort city’s total homicide count for 2013.

The first shooting, which struck one man and sent him to the hospital, took place around 9:30 p.m. Saturday, police Capt. David Knipes told reporters Sunday. With officers investigating onsite, a second shooting was reported at 11 p.m., less than a mile away.

In that shooting, three people were killed and a fourth wounded as a gunman shot into a crowd outside the Bermuda Sands Motel.

The shootings took place during the 34th Annual Atlantic Beach BikeFest, a motorcycle rally that has attracted up to 400,000 bikers, predominantly black, in past years. Police would not say if the shootings were connected to the event.

The Myrtle Beach City Council voted to end bike rallies in 2008 after years of complaints about noise and crime. In 2008, the city council passed a helmet law, among other reform ordinances designed to discourage bikers, but the South Carolina Supreme Court overturned the helmet law in 2010.

“They bring three weeks of noise, congestion, reckless driving, crime, nudity, lewdness, rudeness, litter, wrecks, fatalities – they are overwhelming our capacity to deal with them,” city spokesman Mark Kruea told the Associated Press last year.

However the rallies, including the Harley-Davidson spring rally, have moved to nearby municipalities that have largely welcomed them. While Bikefest officially moved to nearby Atlantic Beach, bikers still occupy Myrtle Beach streets and hotels.

An Instagram video posted online shows the motel shooting followed a sidewalk brawl involving several people. “At first, everyone was standing around to see who was going to win the fight. Then they started shooting and everyone scattered,” George Covington told The Sun News Sunday.

The three people, two men and a woman, were dead before emergency responders arrived on the scene. Myrtle Beach had just two homicides last year.

“We’ve got detectives working on it around the clock…. We hope to put a lot of work into this and get it solved real quick,” Capt. Knipes told reporters Sunday.

No suspects are in custody and police say it is not determined if the shootings are related.

Following the shooting of one of the men, police said spectators involved in the brawl, including the shooter, escaped to the second floor of the hotel. The shooter then fired more shots, striking two more victims on the balcony. He then escaped through the back of the hotel, police believe.

Officers were seen early Sunday draping hotel sheets on the balcony to shield the bodies from view.

Among the other shootings in Myrtle Beach this weekend, a woman was shot in the chin, and a man was hit in the shoulder. Police say they do not believe the shootings are connected.

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