FOLLY BEACH — They pulled onto the beach in four tour buses with a deejay and a makeshift dance floor and left behind more than 100 bags of trash.
Had it not been for that crew of college-age revelers who packed the beach at East 10th Street, Folly Beach would have had a pretty quiet Fourth of July, by most accounts. Instead, 10 Folly officers and five Charleston County sheriff's deputies descended upon what incident reports termed a “riot.”
They hauled seven men to the Charleston County jail. Four officers and a deputy suffered injuries while scuffling with the partiers they arrested.
Public Safety Chief Dennis Brown called in an emergency response shortly after 2 p.m., requesting that all units head to the usually quiet surfing spot, according to a police report. The report said the crowd out there had turned violent toward officers who came to check out a complaint about rowdy beach-goers.
Brown sad Thursday that between 3,000 and 4,000 people had crammed into a 75-yard by 30-yard area. Officers don't know what touched off the brawling, but Brown suggested that the combination of heat and excessive drinking likely triggered the melee.
He added that Folly Beach suffers from the limitations of fitting an estimated 60,000 people on busy beach days onto a strip of land only 6 miles long and a half-mile wide.
“It makes for a very large urban community,” he said. And that, in turn, makes for a lot of trash, which he called the greatest concern of the holiday.
“A lot of it made it into the ocean,” Brown said.
Reports detail young men throwing drinks, cans and cups at officers, grappling with them in the sand and chanting and fist-pumping to work their friends into a froth. Seven of those beach-goers left in handcuffs: Daniel Fernell, 25, of Johns Island; Michael Harvey, 19, of Murfreesboro, Tenn.; Alex Presby, 20, of Charlotte; James Restrepo, 22, of Greenville; Adam Shuster, 22, of Myrtle Beach; Daniel Werney, 23, of Charleston; and Stanley Randal Coleman, 23, of an unknown address.
Police arrested the men on various charges, including disorderly conduct, inciting a riot and violating city ordinances.
An officer wrote that he found Fernell waving his arms and yelling. Fernell didn't listen when the officer told him to remain still, the report said, “creating alarm and panic amongst the public.”
One officer told Werney to stop, as Werney prepared to throw a drink at another officer, according to a report.
“When I turned to deal with another subject, Mr. Werney threw a beverage on me instead,” the officer wrote. Werney then attempted to flee and wrestled with the officer, the report said.
Police picked up both Harvey and Presby for chanting and pumping their fists, reports said. Shuster tripped an officer as the officer arrested his friend, according to an arrest report.
When the officer pushed him away, Shuster “became enraged and attempted to physically accost” the officer, the report said. Some of Shuster's friends restrained him.
Another officer confiscated a glass liquor bottle from a woman on the beach and began pouring out the booze inside when Restrepo tried to snatch it, the officer wrote. Restrepo argued with the officer that the bottle belonged to him and fought the officer until a deputy threatened to use his Taser, the report said.
Authorities on Folly Beach responded to 123 calls total on the Wednesday holiday and said that, overall, incidents are down this year. City officials posted signs along Folly Road approaching the beach, warning visitors about rules and regulations on the island.
Officers also passed out trash bags to help reduce the cleanup. After the beach crowd left late Wednesday, city employees joined the mayor and other residents at the once-quiet surf spot on East 10th Street and picked up trash before the annual fireworks display.
See YouTube video of the incident.
Reach Allyson Bird at 937-5594 or Twitter.com/allysonjbird.