OPA Board President Cites Bullying, Harassment By Knupp Supporters; Family Opts To Not Engage With Response

OPA Board President Cites Bullying, Harassment By Knupp Supporters; Family Opts To Not Engage With Response
A memorial site for Gavin Knupp is pictured along Gray's Corner Road. File Photo

BERLIN – The Knupp family officially maintained the high road this week amid accusations from the Ocean Pines Association supporters are threatening and bullying.

In a pointed statement issued last Saturday, OPA Board President Doug Parks called out the “Do It For Gavin” Facebook group for “harassment” of the Ocean Pines community. The Facebook group, which now has over 20,000 members, was created after last July’s tragic hit-and-run death of Gavin Knupp, 14, on Grays Corner Road.

“Beyond the foundation that was created in Gavin’s honor and the wonderful things that have been accomplished, a Facebook group named Do It For Gavin was formed to among other things, share information and opinions regarding the issue. We have been told that for the most part the group discussed things in a reasonable manner but at some point, the tone changed from sharing information to targeting businesses and conducting protests and boycotts,” Parks said. “Quite frankly, while some may disagree, we see no issue at all with that course of action. However, their actions also included bullying of the business staff, bullying of children at school and threatening organizations, customers and OPA board members. Their actions demonstrated a move away from justice to a support for vengeance.”

The statement continued, “What we have issue with is, given that the targeted business has been sold, the group has now turned its attention to Ocean Pines. Their tactics have been to bully and threaten organizations and entertainment providers from having events at our Yacht Club. As an example, because of the harassment that was going on the in the community by this group the Ravens Roost organization decided to move their planned fundraising event from the Yacht Club to another location. The Veterans Memorial Fund-Raising event was disrupted by this group as the planned entertainer backed out from performing. Organizers were told if the event was held at the Yacht Club, that the Memorial was going to be vandalized. On another note, the band that was scheduled to perform at the St. Patrick’s Day event last week backed out at the last minute due to being harassed by this group. Do these actions convey a desire for justice or vengeance?”

The motorist who struck and killed Knupp, who was crossing Grays Corner Road at night as a pedestrian, has been linked to the yacht club as his mother and stepfather both worked there last summer. The motorist fled the scene of the collision and has yet to turn himself in. The vehicle involved in the collision was confiscated by police shortly after the fatality at the alleged motorist’s family home. No other public press releases have been released by police since the vehicle was discovered.

Since last summer’s tragedy, the Knupp family has released official statements through attorney Neil Dubovsky. Family members and supporters have commented on social media and local television and radio broadcasts, but media statements have typically come through the attorney. In response to the statement from Parks, Dubovsky said the family will not be engaging in a back-and-forth with the elected official, releasing instead a statement that read, “We see no reason to respond to a statement which confirms that the OPA elevates its own interests above those of the residents they were elected to serve. We remain focused on the Foundation and honoring Gavin’s memory.”

The Gavin Knupp Foundation has raised $47,265 as of Feb. 21 with $36,842 coming through the 1st Annual Gavin Knupp Foundation Benefit held at Sinepuxent Brewing Company off Route 611 in October. To date, $8,244 has been distributed to local charities — $2,000 to the Ocean City Surf Club, $6,244 to a bingo event at Sterling Tavern to raise for an 11-year-old local girl fighting for life and $4,000 set aside for a local resident or two to attend Camp Woodward on a scholarship.
In his statement, Parks acknowledged the family’s “terribly tragedy,” saying, “No one can imagine the grief and suffering being endured by the parents at the loss of their child. As the investigation into this tragedy is ongoing, it is no surprise that frustration is growing as the time passes without official action by the State Attorney and the State Police conducting the investigation.” However, Parks said the harassment of the Ocean Pines community must end.

“When will they stop? I can answer that – they won’t. This is a call to all Ocean Pines Association members – raise your voices and be heard. We cannot let this vigilante group run roughshod over our community. By their actions and social media posts, they have demonstrated they care nothing about Ocean Pines and will go to whatever lengths it takes to disrupt our community and our livelihood. We would welcome a conversation with representatives from the Do It For Gavin group with the hope of understanding why they want to disrupt the Ocean Pines community and how their actions would serve to move forward with justice. Trust that justice regarding this case is what all of us want. Perhaps we could convince them that their anger should be directed towards those who are in charge of the investigation.”

Parks encouraged the community to help calm the situation, referring to potential financial hardships for the OPA.

“Talk to your friends, talk to your neighbors and talk to other association members to let them know these situations are taking place and that this group is promoting a level of disruption to our community that at some point will affect us financially, which in turn will most likely lead to an increase in annual assessments,” he said. “We must continue to do what it takes to protect our community and the amenities we have paid to enjoy. I ask the members of the Association to continue to support our amenities and fund-raising events as together we can maintain the things that make our community what it is for us. We all want justice for Gavin and our hope is that the case is resolved as soon as possible.”

As the case investigation remains active and ongoing, local authorities cannot comment. Last month, Knupp’s father, Ray, posted on the Do It For Gavin-Justice for Gavin Facebook page, which now has well over 20,000 members, “Met with SA (State’s Attorney) today. Won’t be much longer.”

Asked to expand on the past last month, family attorney Dubovsky said, “As their investigation works its way to a conclusion, we remain confident that (State’s Attorney) Kris Heiser and her incredible team will secure justice for the Knupp family and the entire community. We remain appreciative of everyone’s encouragement and support.”

Heiser and police have not commented on the case due to the investigation remaining active.

About The Author: Steven Green

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The writer has been with The Dispatch in various capacities since 1995, including serving as editor and publisher since 2004. His previous titles were managing editor, staff writer, sports editor, sales account manager and copy editor. Growing up in Salisbury before moving to Berlin, Green graduated from Worcester Preparatory School in 1993 and graduated from Loyola University Baltimore in 1997 with degrees in Communications (journalism concentration) and Political Science.