City of North Myrtle Beach ignored SLED guidance in ticketing Buoys Restaurant

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David Huckshttps://myrtlebeachsc.com
David Hucks is a 12th generation descendant of the area we now call Myrtle Beach, S.C. David attended Coastal Carolina University and like most of his family, has never left the area. David is the lead journalist at MyrtleBeachSC.com

Court testimony shows that the City of North Myrtle Beach ignored SLED Guidance on covid violations best policing practices. North Myrtle Beach Attorney and police officer appeared unaware such protocol existed.

The Honorable Judge Margie B. Livingston heard deliberations in Myrtle Beach court on Monday concerning North Myrtle Beach’s ticketing of Buoys Restaurant on May 8, 2020 for “suspected” covid violations.

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North Myrtle Beach Police Officer Thomas Bruce was the city’s key witness. Upon taking the stand, Bruce informed the court that he was a North Myrtle Beach sergeant on May 8, 2020, when he was directed by North Myrtle Beach Public Safety Director Jay Fernandez to investigate a possible violation of the restaurant concerning Covid executive mandates issued by S.C. Governor Henry McMaster.

Bruce stated under oath that he arrived at the restaurant, witnessed two different groups, along with restaurant staff. He then ticketed Buoys restaurant as he believed the establishment was in violation of the covid mandate.

Mandate changes from the Governor first stated on May 3rd that outside dining was legal and allowed. On Friday, May 8th at 5 p.m. the Governor stated that indoor dining (at 50% occupancy) would take effect Monday, May 11th at noon.

A guidance proclamation was sent out on or around March 17th from the State Law Enforcement Division to every municipality in the state of S.C. This guide was sent to inform each municipality on “Best Policing Practices” in the event of a suspected violation.

MyrtleBeachSC News found the guidance in less than one minute by GOOGLE searching the term “SLED GUIDANCE 2020-10”.

The guidance can be read in its entirety here. https://www.scemd.org/media/1475/executive-order-guidance-final-sled.pdf

Best practices are offered in the guidance as follows:

With regard to the practical application of this Executive Order, SLED would offer the following guidance, understanding that each law enforcement agency has the discretion to enforce the laws of the State of South Carolina as the agency deems appropriate: In the event a law enforcement officer encounters a violation of Section 4 of Executive Order 2020-10, including those occurring at private clubs, the officer should affirmatively notify all involved in the commission of the violation and provide a direct order to immediately cease the violating conduct. After such direct notice, any continued non-compliance would violate S.C. Code Ann. § 16-7-10 as this conduct would violate a provision of the Governor’s proclamation (Executive Order 2020-10) and would constitute a willful failure or refusal to comply with any lawful order or direction of any law enforcement officer.

When Defense Attorney Kenneth Moss, representing Buoys, attempted to enter this public document into the court record, North Myrtle Beach City Attorney Chris Noury cried foul.

NMB CITY ATTORNEY CHRIS NOURY

North Myrtle Beach City Attorney Chris Noury

Noury claimed he was previously unaware of such a document, even though it was public record. Noury pointed out that the document was not part of the defense’s discovery and he, therefore, had no time to prepare for it.

Judge Livingston ruled for Noury, but the sworn testimony of Police Officer Bruce continued without the jury present.

Bruce previously swore, under oath, that he never spoke with any of those he suspected were dining in Buoys restaurant.

Under oath, Bruce stated he never asked the group to cease (disperse) before writing a ticket to Weldon Boyd, owner of Buoys.

Bruce was also surprised by the document, stating that he would have sent it to the eight police officers under his command, had he received it.

Defendant Attorney Moss asked Officer Bruce, “Had you followed this SLED guidance, we wouldn’t be in this courtroom today, would we?”

Officer Bruce responded, “No, we would not.

This entire testimony was not allowed into the official court record, nor was it heard by the jury.

WHAT HAPPED TO THE GUIDANCE PROCLAMATION? WHO IN NMB RECEIVED IT? WHY WAS NMB POLICE NOT TRAINED ON THIS GUIDANCE?

We reached out to NMB City Manager, Mike Mahaney, with the following questions:

  1. Did the City of North Myrtle Beach receive this guidance from SLED?
  2. Where would such a guidance be emailed, mailed or sent?
  3. Would Former North Myrtle Beach Police Chief Tommy Dennis have been sent this guidance?
  4. Would Public Safety Director Jay Fernandez have been sent this guidance?
  5. Or did you receive this correspondence?

Another question we will ask North Myrtle Beach City Attorney Chris Noury soon: As the city attorney, why were you unaware of this public guidance from SLED to the City of North Myrtle Beach? As the document was public record, why was it not part of your foundation as you investigated the issues in and around this case?

Noury stated that he felt “ambushed” by the document’s revelation.

Since the time of this May 8th incident, North Myrtle Beach Police Sergeant Thomas Bruce has been promoted to Lieutenant.

What happened?

The defense and defense witnesses stated that the patrons in question on May 8th, had been served and were dining outside. The group consisted of two families, with young children, who were staying at the Avista Resort. These families had walked to the restaurant.

A rain event began. The group simply came inside the restaurant after paying their tab to “sit out the rain” before walking back to the resort.

Witnesses stated that the patrons brought their food inside with them as they entered the building.

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