Lamar council explores how violence flared at festival

Nell Bradley of the Lamar Egg Scramble Jamboree Committee (left) and Lamar Town Council member Angele White-Bradley

By Samantha Lyles, Staff Writer, slyles@newsandpress.net

Lamar Town Council received a report on the 2019 Egg Scramble Jamboree at their April 8 meeting, and the news was mostly good … with one exception.

“Everything went extremely well until Saturday evening, and things went down that we had no control over,” said Nell Bradley, chair of the Egg Scramble Committee.

Bradley recounted how every festival activity – including night and day parades, concerts, the Taste of Lamar and other regular events – went off without a hitch. But as night approached on Saturday, tensions mounted between two groups of young men. One witness described hearing the groups shout obscenities at each other, and she asked them to refrain because there were children nearby.

They complied for a while, then observers noted to Bradley that they felt “something was about to happen.”

She says she went to find a deputy and the tensions finally erupted into violence. Bradley said she was only a few feet away from the skirmish and witnessed pushing, shoving and punches being thrown.

The fighters crashed into one vendor’s stall and upturned a fryer filled with hot oil, which fortunately did not burn anyone.

Though the young men assaulted each other, Bradley said the violence never escalated to gunplay.

“There were no gunshots. I was there,” Bradley said. “It started out as a fistfight.”

She praised Darlington County Sheriff’s Department officers, noting that they intervened quickly and had offenders subdued and handcuffed within two minutes. Bradley added that DCSO informed her that one person was stabbed on Main Street, but the injury was not life-threatening.

Bradley said that law enforcement learned that another group of young men was headed to Lamar, potentially to continue the fight, and all festival activities were immediately ended to preserve public safety. The streets were cleared, leaving garbage cleanup for the next morning.

While this incident was discouraging to locals and festival organizers, Bradley said the Egg Scramble Committee has no intention of ending the event, though additional security measures will likely be taken in the future.

Discussion turned to the growth of gang activity in Lamar, which several citizens observed could be fueled by a lack of recreational options for young people. Without parks, classes, or leisure activities available to them, kids are vulnerable to recruitment by gangs, and guests discussed the need to establish safe places and structured programs to help young people avoid involvement in criminal activity.

Firearms instructor and retired police officer Chuck McLendon spoke to council and guests on the subjects of concealed weapons permit training and a citizen’s role in law enforcement.

McLendon said that while Lamar – like many rural communities – is short on police officers, it is the responsibility of citizens to look out for each other.

“If you see something suspicious, try to get descriptions, (license) tag numbers. If you’ve got a smartphone, take a picture. any of these things can help officers when they come to investigate,” said McLendon. “I know a lot of times, citizens don’t want to get involved and we understand that as police officers, but we kind of have to have your help because we weren’t there when it happened.”

McLendon said that he had previously spoken with Mayor Darnell Byrd-McPherson about conducting a concealed weapons permit training class for interested Lamar citizens. McLendon said he has over 20 years of teaching experience and prefers to instruct classes from a practical law enforcement perspective, emphasizing ways to defend yourself while staying within state and federal laws. He said if there is adequate interest from the community, he would set up a training session for Lamar residents and reduce class fees to encourage wider participation.

Council member and Mayor Pro Tem Lang Howell ran the meeting in the absence of Mayor McPherson, who was dealing with a family medical emergency. Howell informed guests that while he has received several applications for open positions in the Lamar Police Department, many of them were problematic (spotty work history, etc.) and he is still searching for good police chief and patrol officer candidates.

Author: Rachel Howell

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