OCEAN CITY — With the resort community experiencing another stretch of violent incidents, Ocean City Police Department (OCPD) Chief Ross Buzzuro issued a statement vowing an increased police presence and strict enforcement along with a message of hope and understanding.
Buzzuro characterized the last week or so in Ocean City and the surrounding area as a “perfect storm.” It’s not unusual to have serious incidents and assaults in early to mid-June, but thus far this month, the incidents have been decidedly more frequent and more violent involving larger groups of individuals intent on disturbing the peace.
In the span of about a week beginning last Sunday, there have been at least two stabbings and several major altercations on the Boardwalk including a major fight last Tuesday that resulted in the severe beating of a young man. Over the weekend, the incidents intensified with more significant altercations and packs of young people running wild on the Boardwalk. The incidents reached a crescendo on Friday night when law enforcement was forced to utilize a tear gas-like substance to break up the unruly crowds.
“I want to speak to you directly about the violence and unruly behavior we’ve seen here in recent days,” Buzzuro said in a video statement on Monday. “We are living through difficult times, not just in Ocean City but in communities throughout the nation. June has presented our town with the perfect storm of challenges. Ocean City police have met those challenges with professionalism, respect and a commitment to do right by the citizens they are sworn to protect.”
In the wake of last week’s mid-week incidents, the Ocean City Police Commission met in an emergency closed session to review deployment and enforcement strategies. As a result, outside law enforcement agencies were brought in to help bolster the OCPD over the weekend with varied results. In his statement on Monday, Buzzuro vowed the OCPD and its allied partners were committed to expanding their presence and quelling the violence.
“I can assure you in the days and weeks ahead, they will be doing even more to keep our residents and visitors safe,” he said. “You’ll be seeing more officers on patrol on the Boardwalk and throughout the town. They will be there to strictly and professionally enforce the law. The kind of behavior we’ve seen recently will not be tolerated and arrests will be made.”
Buzzuro ended his statement with a message of hope and a call to citizens to do their part to end the violence and just be kind to each other.
“Like you, many of our officers have been visiting or living in Ocean City all of their lives,” he said. “We love it here and we are committed to keeping it safe. I’d like to ask all of you, our residents and visitors, to commit yourselves to doing the same Take a step back, be kind to each other, respect our differences and help us keep Ocean City a safe community for all.”
Around 4:30 a.m. on Sunday, June 7, the OCPD responded to a fight involving multiple people on the Boardwalk between 6th Street and 7th Street. During that incident, one unnamed individual was stabbed and was taken to Peninsula Regional Medical Center in Salisbury. The victim’s status in unknown.
Last Tuesday, OCPD officers responded to two simultaneous serious assaults on the Boardwalk, one at 11th Street and another at 15th Street. Around 11:20 p.m., OCPD officers responded to a reported stabbing that had just occurred. The victim was transported to PRMC for treatment and severity of the victim’s injuries are not known.
Just after midnight last Wednesday, the three-day spree reached a crescendo when a fight broke out on the Boardwalk between large groups of young adults. At least one young man was punched repeatedly in the face while sitting on a Boardwalk bench to the point it appeared he fell unconscious. Other skirmishes broke out during the larger altercation which carried over to the beach area. A video of the incident captured by a witness and posted on social media went viral and left many in the community with more questions than answers.
In fairness, the violent and unruly behavior has not been limited to Ocean City and similar incidents have been reported across the state and the nation. Last Thursday, a pair of significant incidents were reported in West Ocean City.
Just after 5 p.m. last Thursday, two individuals entered a West Ocean City restaurant and were asked by employees to leave because they were not wearing masks or face coverings in violation of state COVID-19 directives. The individuals did leave as directed, but returned a short time later with a third individual and allegedly confronted employees and threw bottles and other items around the restaurant before fleeing on foot. One individual, identified as Roger Ja’Mil Brown, 19, of Severn, Md., was arrested a short time later and was charged with disorderly conduct, resisting arrest and disturbing the peace.
Around the same time last Thursday, another man was reportedly attacked randomly while shopping at the outlets in West Ocean City. The victim and his girlfriend were allegedly attacked from behind by five unknown assailants in broad daylight. The victim reportedly suffered multiple facial fractures including a broken cheek and a broken eye socket.
Back in Ocean City, the violence erupted again on Friday night with multiple altercations up and down the Boardwalk throughout the night. The situation reached a crescendo on Friday when law enforcement was forced to deploy pepper spray or a tear gas-like substance to break up the crowds.
On Sunday around 2 a.m., police broke up a fight among a group and apprehended at last two suspects on the Boardwalk.
On Sunday afternoon, the Alaska Stand on 9th Street announced on social media it was closing its doors early due to customer problems. Additionally, some other downtown businesses, such as the Crabcake Factory Poolside, did not even open Sunday due to concerns over safety.
In its social media message, the Alaska Stand wrote, “We are closed! … we have had more than enough this weekend dealing with a whole new level of disrespect to our staff, our business and our town and we are tired of being the brunt of undeserved verbal abuse by the public when ordering and picking up … we will regroup and try again … get it together OC … we apologize to our beloved and well mannered customers, we cherish and appreciate you to no end.”