OCEAN CITY – Not long after a big portion of the largest crowd to pour into Ocean City for Memorial Day weekend in 16 years had called it a night and left the Boardwalk late last Saturday night, the famous promenade became the scene of one of the largest brawls in recent memory in the resort, a near-riot that ended with nine arrests and several officers assaulted.
According to merchant Danny King, whose family has owned and operated Kingie’s Cotton Candy across from the old pier building in the heart of the Boardwalk since the 1940s, the seeds for what would soon become a huge riot involving hundreds including as many as 40 Ocean City Police Department (OCPD) officers, were planted earlier in the evening. Around 10 p.m., according to King, a minor skirmish involving maybe 10 individuals broke out not far from his store in front of the adjacent pizza parlor, but the fray ended quickly before escalating further.
“It seems like these huge groups of guys and girls in their early 20s come out late in the night, usually on Saturday night, and walk around in packs looking for trouble,” he said. “They walk around and it looks like they’re up to no good. On Saturday, after that first little skirmish, we all said it wasn’t over, and there was more to come the later it got.”
OCPD officers responded to the area and made their way through the Boardwalk crowd and eventually located the group arguing. According to police reports, OCPD officers were able to break up the argument before a fight began, but a portion of the group continued to walk down the Boardwalk, screaming and cursing loudly in the presence of some families who were still enjoying the holiday getaway.
While officers attempted to restore order a second time, one of the individuals, later identified as Marlon Ennis, 24, of Salisbury, continued to act disorderly by cursing and refusing the OCPD’s requests to stop using profanity and act in a threatening manner. As one officer attempted to arrest Ennis, the disorderly suspect resisted and assaulted the officer numerous times, touching off what would become a full-scale riot.
Several other members of Ennis’s group joined the fray and began assaulting the arresting officer. Ennis was eventually taken into custody. During his arrest, a female later identified as Mary Elizabeth Elzey, 21, of Baltimore, also assaulted police officers and attempted to obstruct the police from arresting Ennis. Elzey was also taken into custody and removed from the incident.
However, the arrests of Ennis and Elzey only fueled the melee as several other fights related to the first incident broke out on the Boardwalk. According to King, who witnessed the entire sequence of events, what started as a trickle of OCPD officers turned into a wave as over 40 officers responded to the scene as well as units from the Worcester County Sheriff’s Office and the Maryland State Police.
According to King, the riot escalated with several of the combatants jumping on the backs of officers, who at first were trying to get control of the suspects but soon were just trying to protect themselves. A couple of bouncers from the Cork Bar nearby reportedly came to the assistance of the officers involved in the fight in an attempt to diffuse the situation. By then, the Boardwalk crowd had formed a large circle with fights going on in the middle. It was something King had never seen before.
“My family has had this store since 1944 and I’ve spent every year of my life up there,” said King. “I’ve seen a lot of fights over the years, but I’ve never seen anything like this. There was so much energy and the crowd was very anti-police.”
King said the crowd really was not under control until the two OCPD mounted patrol units arrived on the scene and started to move the crowds back. Corporal Ray Land and Pfc. Bruce Stender arrived on their mounts and started pushing the crowds away from the fighting with one moving people in one direction and the other moving part of the crowd in a different direction.
“Ray Land and Bruce Stender were just unbelievable,” said King. “They maneuvered their horses and were really able to get the situation under control.”
King said the mounted patrols have a reputation for being more ceremonial and public relations oriented than practical for police work, but they really proved their worth during the riot on Saturday.
“It would have escalated if it weren’t for those horses,” he said “They enlarged the circle to the point it wasn’t a circle anymore. Those guys pushed the crowd back by backing into them with their horses. I’m not sure what would have happened if they didn’t get involved.”
By the time the riot was under control, the Boardwalk was closed between Thrasher’s at south end of the pier building and Somerset Street. According to King, there were scores of police officers on the scene and about a dozen suspects lying on the ground in handcuffs. The Boardwalk merchant voiced concern the Memorial Day riot might be a sign of things to come late at night on the Boardwalk as the summer wears on.
“These large groups of kids, I call them kids although most of them look like they’re in their 20s, start roaming the Boardwalk late at night after most of the families have gone home,” he said. “You can tell they are just looking for somebody to say boo to them. I don’t know how it can be prevented. You can’t tell some people they can’t come on the Boardwalk.”
When all was said and done, nine people were arrested, including one juvenile, and charged with a variety of offenses. Ennis was charged with one count of second-degree assault on a police officer, another count of second-degree assault, disorderly conduct and resisting arrest. He was released after posting a $25,000 bond. Elzey was charged with second-degree assault, disorderly conduct and interfering with an arrest.
Others arrested included John O’Conner Walker, 29, of Ocean City, two counts of second-degree assault, resisting arrest, possession of marijuana and paraphernalia; Ronald Lee Elzey, 28, of Baltimore, second-degree assault on a police officer, second degree assault, and two counts of resisting arrest; and Karon Andrew Bethune, 32, of Salisbury, second-degree assault, resisting arrest, disorderly conduct and failure to obey a lawful order from a police officer.
Other arrests included Sean Carner Hitchens, 19, of Salisbury, malicious destruction of property and failure to obey a law enforcement officer; Brandon Martice Hilliard, 20, of Berlin, second-degree assault and disorderly conduct; Marcus Alan Monk, 30, Washington, D.C., failure to obey a police officer; and a 17-year-old female juvenile from Hyattsville, second-degree assault and making a false statement to a police officer.