Myrtle Beach city council member John Krajc was cited for reckless driving last month after he ignored police instructions to stop pursuing a Dodge Charger that was the source of fireworks tossed in his lawn and front porch, according to an incident report.
“I feel like I was defending my home and that I didn’t do anything wrong,” Krajc said. “The adult that was involved, he shot fireworks at my home while my girlfriend and dog were outside.”
Officers were initially dispatched to Krajc’s house at 2nd Avenue North and Oak Street for a fireworks complaint on June 29, according to a police report, which identified the 19-year-old fireworks-tosser as “offender 1” and Krajc as “offender 2.”
While responding, the report says, “Officers were updated by Myrtle Beach police dispatch that [Krajc] was following offender 1 and [Krajc] was advised to stop following but refused to stop following OF/1’s vehicle. Assisting officers were able to locate both parties at Little River Road and Green Bay [Trail].”
The intersection is more than three miles away from Krajc’s house, by road.
“[Krajc] stated that he was told, multiple times, by the call taker to stop following the vehicle, however, he did not,” the police report said. “He reported that he ‘pursued’ the vehicle throughout the city.”
“I was simply following the offender until police could catch up to us so that they would know his location,” Krajc said.
The 19-year-old admitted to officers that he had tossed fireworks out of his Dodge Charger, and he received a summons for “fireworks on a public road,” the report said. The teenager told police that after tossing the fireworks, “he saw [Krajc’s] vehicle get behind them and begin to follow them. OF/1 reported that [Krajc] tried to cut them off multiple times and was driving up next to them trying to get them to stop.”
Krajc said he couldn’t comment on whether he tried to cut off the other vehicle.
MyHorryNews.com filed a Freedom of Information Act request for the 911 call reporting the incident and dashcam video that captured Krajc’s encounter with police. Both are public records.
Myrtle Beach City Council on Tuesday unanimously approved amendments to the city’s fireworks ordinance, decriminalizing the sparking Fourth of July essentials.
The city of Myrtle Beach denied the request, saying the release would “interfere with a prospective law enforcement proceeding.” Jay Bender, an attorney and expert on South Carolina’s Freedom of Information Act, disagreed.
“I can’t imagine there is any future law enforcement action involved here,” Bender said, adding, “if any citizen had been arrested or charged with the same offense, that 911 call and the dashcam video would have been made public record upon the first request, but because it’s a city council member involved, I’m inclined to believe the police are protecting the city council member. After all, the city council provides the budget for the police department. I don’t think it’s a legitimate use of the exception under the FOIA.”
Police spokesman Capt. Thomas Vest said in an email that, “The case is closed but has not been heard in court so information that could interfere with prospective law enforcement proceedings is not available for public release at this time.”
Bender countered that, “Prosecution is not a ‘prospective law enforcement action’ which would be compromised by the release of the records. Again, it appears that the police are sheltering the actions of a city council member from the public.”
Vest said in an email that after reviewing the request again, the department would stand by the denial for the dashcam and 911 call.
“We examine each FOIA request on a case-by-case basis with a commitment to transparency while also striving to protect the constitutional right to ‘due process of law’ and a ‘public trial by an impartial jury’ granted to any person accused of a crime,” Vest said. “As the analysis is based on several factors, we review requests based on all of the circumstances at the time of the request. It is also important to note that two persons were charged in this case, and we considered the impact that disclosure of the 911 call and dash camera video would have on both cases in reaching the determination to deny your request for these items at this time.”
However, the police department did voluntarily release the CAD (computer-aided dispatch) readout from the 911 call, which confirmed Krajc was told multiple times to stop following the other vehicle.
The police department said it will make the withheld records available under FOIA after Krajc’s case is resolved in court.
“Those documents will be available when the case is disposed of by the court, and releasing that information would no longer jeopardize a person’s right to a fair and impartial trial or interfere with a prospective law enforcement proceeding,” Vest said.
Myrtle Beach Mayor Brenda Bethune said she didn’t have the authority to decide whether to release the records involving Krajc’s reckless driving citation.
“We’re not trying to protect him, we don’t try to protect anybody, but that’s not my call, that’s the police department’s call,” she said.
Bethune also said she couldn’t comment on the incident. “I haven’t read the report and haven’t seen the dashcam video.”
Krajc’s court date is Aug. 25, although Vest said the date is subject to change. Krajc said he’s retained legal counsel to help him through the situation.
“I’m not gonna comment whether the police were wrong or not,” he added. “I’m not gonna give comment on the citation itself.”
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