Myrtle Beach mourns shooting death of police officer

Published: Dec. 29, 2002 at 10:03 PM EST|Updated: Jan. 2, 2003 at 1:35 PM EST
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Officer Joe McGarry
Officer Joe McGarry
Luzenski Allen Cottrell
Luzenski Allen Cottrell
Amber Alicia Counts
Amber Alicia Counts

A myrtle beach police officer is being remembered 28-year old joe mc-garry was shot sunday while questioning a suspect. Friends, family and co-workers held a special memorial service for him yesterday in north myrtle beach. A burial service is planned for saturday, in rhode island. Two people are charged in connection with his death -- 25-year old luzenski allen cottrell faces murder charges, and 21-year old amber alicia counts is charged with accessory after the fact.

(Myrtle Beach-AP) -- A large group of friends, family and fellow officers turned out to say goodbye to slain Myrtle Beach policeman Joe McGarry Junior. About 400 people attended the memorial service yesterday. McGarry was fatally shot early Sunday. Colleagues remembered McGarry as a model officer during his four years on the force. McGarry will be given an honor guard escort when his body is taken to the airport later today. He will be buried Saturday in his hometown of Warwick, Rhode Island. About 35 members of the Myrtle Beach force will make the trip. Luzenski Allen Cottrell is charged with murder in McGarry's death.

(Myrtle Beach) Dec. 30, 2002 - It should have been a magical time. Myrtle Beach Police Officer Joe McGarry, 28, proposed to his girlfriend on Christmas Eve, but they barely had time to plan any part of their lives before he was killed doing a job he loved.

Myrtle Beach is a place where police handle a lot of tough reality, but even for them the death hardly seems real. Myrtle Beach Captain Joe Vella can't believe it. He says officers knew McGarry as smiling, full of life, positive and in love with his job, "Sometimes we'd refer to him as a fast burner, always active, always positive. I don't think I've known him to have a negative word to say."

Vella says McGarry's death is the first time one of their officers has been killed in the line of duty, "We haven't had this happen before. We do it the best way we can. It's hard to cope with."

McGarry was said to be half teddy-bear, half blood-hound. He loved kids programs, but also relentlessly tracking down crime.

Sunday morning, at a Dunkin Donuts on Kings Highway, his instinct told McGarry something was wrong. He saw someone he thought he had a warrant for in the parking lot. Police say the suspect quickly pulled out a gun and shot McGarry in the head.

Myrtle Beach Police Chief Warren Gall says Luzenski Allen Cottrell, 25, of Myrtle Beach, was arrested after a high speed chase and charged with murder.

Myrtle Beach Lt. Chuck Dunn says McGarry's death has the entire city grieving, "People stopping you on the street, giving you condolences and how sorry they are. It's been wonderful from the community."

An impromptu memorial has been set up outside the Myrtle Beach Police headquarters. McGarry's death touched not just the Myrtle Beach community. Among the flowers and candles at the memorial you can see a law enforcement patch from Maryland.

Residents like Bernadette Kurtz are stunned, "You don't usually find this sort of thing in Myrtle Beach or Horry County. It happens in New York or Washington."

Officer McGarry's parents fly in from Rhode Island to Myrtle Beach on Tuesday.  McGarry's mother, who lost her only child, asks everyone to keep the family in their prayers.

Authorities say Amber Alicia Counts, 21, of North Myrtle Beach, was driving the vehicle as it fled police. She is charged with accessory after the fact of murder.

Horry County Coroner Robert Edge says McGarry died about 90 minutes after the shooting. He was a four-year veteran of the Myrtle Beach police force.

The State Law Enforcement Division is investigating.

McGarry was the 8th South Carolina officer to die in the line of duty this year. Three Lowcountry officers were killed in January alone. One of those officers died in the Midlands. Highway Patrolman Michael Rao died in June after a truck hit him while he helped a driver along Interstate 95.

By Lisa Goddard
updated 11:45am by Chris Rees