OCEAN CITY — More details emerged late Wednesday afternoon in the OCPD’s investigation into an assault in the north end of the resort that is now classified as a homicide after the victim, a 31-year-old Lutherville, Md. man, succumbed to his injuries on Tuesday.
Around 2:30 a.m. last Sunday, Ocean City police and EMS responded to the area of 136th Street and Coastal Highway for a reported assault. Ocean City EMS transported the victim, later identified as Ryan M. Shupert, to PRMC in Salisbury where he was admitted in serious condition with life-threatening injuries. Shupert succumbed to his injuries from the incident on Tuesday. The victim’s body was transported to the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner who has ruled the death a homicide.
Detectives with the Ocean City Police Department’s Criminal Investigation Division’s Major Crimes Unit believe the victim and two friends were in a verbal argument with four male suspects on a municipal bus prior to the altercation at 136th Street. A reliable source said the victim and his friends were on a northbound bus and got off in the area of 130th Street, while the four suspects were on the same bus and got off sometime later. The source said the victim’s group began walking north, while the suspects’ group began walking south and the two groups converged again in the area of 136th Street.
According to other reliable sources, the assault was not a major fight between the two groups but rather a single punch that broke the victim’s jaw. The victim suffered the serious injuries that ultimately claimed his life in the fall following that punch, according to the sources.
OCPD detectives are currently seeking four male suspects and are asking anyone with information to come forward. Each of the four suspects is believed to be from the Baltimore area. One suspect is described as a white male in his 20s, approximately 5’8” to 5’10” with short, light-colored hair and visible tattoos on both arms and neck. That suspect was wearing a white T-shirt at the time of the attack.
A second suspect is described as a white male in his 20s with a darker complexion, about 6’ tall and weighing around 200 pounds with curly hair parted to the side and wearing glasses. The other two suspects are described only as white males in their 20s.
“We are confident that someone has valuable information about this incident and knows the suspects that were involved,” said OCPD Chief Ross Buzzuro on Wednesday. “We urge anyone that may have information to contact us, particularly those that may have been on a municipal bus between the hours of 1:30 a.m. and 2:30 a.m. in the areas of 70th Street to 130th Street on Sunday, May 29.”
Detectives are actively reviewing surveillance video, witness statements and forensic evidence and each lead is being investigated extensively. Anyone with information is urged to contact the OCPD at 410-723-6602 or visit oceancitymd.gov/police to submit a tip. Tips may be submitted anonymously.
While the OCPD has said it is reviewing surveillance video, it’s uncertain from whence the video was recorded. However, none of the buses in Ocean City’s fleet are currently equipped with surveillance cameras, but that could soon change. In mid-May, resort officials agreed to accept a $500,000 grant from the Maryland Transit Authority (MTA) to outfit all of the municipal buses in Ocean City’s fleet with surveillance cameras inside and out, but the funding was included in the MTA’s fiscal year 2017 budget and that project is likely several months away.
It’s also uncertain if there was an OCPD officer on the bus in question. For the past few years, the OCPD has put both uniformed and plainclothes officers on municipal buses, particularly in the height of the June Bug season, in an effort to deter crime and provide protection and support for the driver.
The “spot the cop” program includes deploying as many as 10 officers on municipal buses on weekend nights in the summer from roughly 10 p.m. to 3 a.m. Some of the officers on buses are in uniform, which has its own crime-deterring effect. In some cases, the officers on the buses are in plainclothes and blend in with the rest of the rabble on the buses on a hectic summer night.
What is certain is the assault turned homicide continues a rather morbid start to the early summer season with five reported deaths already before the calendar flipped to June. Although it happened back in March, a construction worker’s fatal fall from a building started the sad litany of events already this season.
On May 3, a 67-year-old Pennsylvania man was struck and killed by an Ocean City police vehicle while crossing Coastal Highway against a pedestrian signal at 94th Street. On May 19, a motorcycle traveling north on Coastal Highway at speeds estimated at around 100 mph collided with a pick-up truck at 28th Street, resulting in the death of a 24-year-old Germantown, Md. man.
Just two days later, Ocean City police responded to the Stowaway Grand Hotel at 21st Street to assist Ocean City EMS after an individual fell from an eighth-floor balcony on the south side of the building. Ocean City paramedics determined the victim, a 29-year-old Chambersburg, Pa. man, was deceased shortly after their arrival.
While homicides in Ocean City are few and far between, there is a definite pattern to the most recent cases in the resort’s history. In August 2014, two local men were charged initially with manslaughter for their roles in the beating death of a Pennsylvania man during a fight that originated with words exchanged in the early morning hours at a downtown restaurant and escalated to a full-blown altercation in the street.
In January 2013, a local man was charged with homicide for his role in the death of his longtime friend outside a downtown bar during what began as a friendly dispute over a swiped cell phone and ended in tragedy with a fight on the icy sidewalk outside the establishment with the victim hitting his head and fracturing his skull.
Although it occurred in West Ocean City, another manslaughter case in October 2011 followed the same pattern. A West Ocean City bar owner got into a verbal argument with a local man when he caught him urinating on the side of the building around closing time and the argument escalated into a physical altercation. The bar owner and the local man fell to the ground during the fight and the bar owner never got back up struggling to breath from an internal injury only a later autopsy would reveal.
In each of those other fight-related homicide cases, the suspect or suspects were quickly identified, charged and ultimately convicted on various counts and each served or is serving jail time. It remains uncertain if the suspects involved in last weekend’s homicide will ever be identified and it appears to be a long shot because they are likely long gone from the area, but there is at least one prior unsolved homicide in Ocean City still on the books.
In February 2005, a Virginia man was apparently killed in his midtown condo although his remains have never been found and his attackers never identified although there are suspects. When the man’s family reported him missing, OCPD officers went to the condo and found a large knife as well as a large amount of blood evidence throughout the unit. A few months later, a Worcester County Circuit Court judge ruled favorably on a petition to have the Virginia man declared officially deceased, turning the missing persons case into a homicide investigation. The victim’s remains where never found.