'They're clearly throwing cash at the crowd': Massive crowd spotted in Daytona Beach on Memorial Day weekend
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. - The exact opposite of social distancing took place in Daytona Beach on Saturday.
The Volusia County Sheriff's Office released new chopper video on Sunday of a massive crowd in the city, holding up traffic on a major roadway.
The sheriff's office said the crowd cooperated with law enforcement though, moving along when officers and deputies asked them to.
No arrests were made.
The Daytona Beach Police Department and the Volusia County Sheriff's Office held a news conference about the crowds on Sunday afternoon.
Investigators said they received information that a party called "Orlando Invades Daytona" would happen on Memorial Day weekend.
They were able to speak to promoters and cancel the event, but crowds still showed up to the city from various parts of Florida, including Orlando, Seminole County and even Miami.
Despite the shooting at a 7-Eleven near the boardwalk and the massive crowds, Daytona Beach Police Chief Craig Capri said the day was peaceful. However, he said, "I'm not downplaying any of these events. The shooting was very serious. The crowds were very serious."
He went on to explain that police were able to de-escalate the crowds, especially as people surrounded a man throwing money from his vehicle on a crowded roadway.
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"I know people were scared. I know people were upset," he said. "I'm a little pissed off, too, about a lot of this. Let me tell ya, we don't take this lightly, especially with the crowds gathering together right now as we got the coronavirus still going around and people not practicing social distancing. But I'm not the social distancing police. That's not my job. We recommend crowds disperse. The crowds that we came into contact with were complying."
Volusia County Sheriff Mike Chitwood spoke after and said that his deputies were told to "restore order, restore the flow of traffic, protect life and property, and along the way, if you need to make an arrest, make an arrest."
He said once traffic and order were restored, 90 percent of people packed up and left the area.
He acknowledged that there were some pop-up incidents afterward, but that law enforcement had a very "calming influence over what could have been a really chaotic incident," as not one business was broken into, no property was damaged, nobody was injured and all of the law enforcement involved went home safely.
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"We got slammed. Disney is closed. Universal is closed. Everything is closed. So where did everyone come on the first warm day with 50 percent opening? Everyone came to the beach," Sheriff Chitwood said. "When you take a step back and look at everything that happened. Were there massive crowds? Absolutely. Did we get invaded? Absolutely. Look at the 30,000-foot view and say what could have been really bad, worked out really well."
Chitwood went on to say that the only open investigation they have from this now is for the suspect who was throwing money out of the car on A1A.
"We're going to identify him and charge him," Chitwood said.
He closed his statements by reiterating that law enforcement did a great job in the face of what could have been a potentially violent situation.
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Daytona Beach Councilwoman Billie Wheeler was one of several speakers after Chief Capri and Sheriff Chitwood.
She said that she is not sure this was a "successful thing" and that "anytime you get an invasion and it goes through social media, there are certain precautions that we have to take. We need to find out where we need to go further from this. We had citizens who were terrorized in their homes. They heard gunshots."
"If the laws are broken, that's unacceptable. I don't care what invasion it is. If laws are broken when you come, you need to be arrested," Wheeler said. "I live beachside. I was hearing nothing but terror from my residents. Then, when I get phone calls this morning from the hotels and motels -- and we've been working so hard to get the tourism back -- just one hotel had 26 families move out this morning."
For more on the crowds, including how Chitwood responded to what the councilwoman had to say, watch the news conference below.
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Along the beaches on Saturday, little regard was shown for social distancing as well. Crowds of people flocked to Volusia County beaches and safety officials said it was one of the busiest days they have ever seen.
Then in the water, lifeguards rescued more than 250 people on Saturday, as dangerous rip currents came in.
Deputies, officers and beach patrol will be out on the beaches on Sunday to make sure visitors follow the guidelines in place and stay safe.
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