Flagler Beach witnessed one serious fight that led to two arrests, and two brush fires, while Palm Coast had a minor party-related disturbance and Bunnell seemed to verge on the brink of a serious commotion until an arrest defused the situation. The July 4 festivities also led to the usual number of disorderly and drunk driving arrests, but not in large numbers: in all, six drunk driving and eight disorderly conduct arrests countywide in the 24 hours of the July 4 holiday.
“I would sum it up as a long hot summer day in Flagler Beach, where 25, 30,000 people came, they saw a great parade, great fireworks,” Flagler Beach Police Chief Matt Doughney said. “Other than that small incident, it was a beautiful day in Flagler Beach.”
The small incident was seen differently from different vantage points. It was brief and resulted in three arrests, according to Doughney and police reports. But to Eric Cooley, the Flagler Beach city commissioner who also owns the 7-Eleven in Flagler Beach, traditionally one of the busier areas of town as people stream in and out for drinks and snacks, what unfolded just outside the store didn’t look like a minor incident. ” I’ve never seen anything even remotely close to it,” he said in a text this morning. “It was so bad I temporarily closed the store down for safety of the staff. I was front row for all of it as I was in the middle of everything.”
Here’s how Flagler County Sheriff’s detective saw it. Two detectives were on foot patrol in the 400 block of South Oceanshore Boulevard at 7 p.m. “I observed dozens of citizens screaming, running towards and filming the area of the sidewalk directly in front of Wham Burger,” one of the detectives reported. “I ran toward the area and observed two males exchanging punches. A third male jumped on top of the other two and also became engaged in the altercation.”
The men were identified as Jared Russo, 19, of Banton Lane in Palm Coast, Trenton K. Nix, 18, of Big Dipper Lane in Palm Coast, and a 17 year old. The man who allegedly jumped on the other two was Russo, according to Russo’s arrest report. The detective saw Russo “tackling two other males to the ground and engage in combat with them” according to Russo’s arrest report. “Russo’s actions caused a crowd to gather as well as cause public alarm and disorder.”
The men initially refused to listen to commands to desist but were eventually pried apart and the two adults arrested for disorderly conduct, a misdemeanor.
“From our standpoint it was a minor incident, a couple of arrests were made for disorderly conduct,” Doughney said. The fight had begun on the beach, the chief said, where someone accused someone else of stealing something. “Things got heated, words were exchanged, some punches were thrown,” Doughney said, and the fight spilled over in or around the burger joint.
In Bunnell at 8 p.m., a Bunnell Police officer was on patrol in the 400 block of East Booe Street when he saw “approximately 200 people engaged in a physical disturbance,” according to a police report. The officer immediately called for back-up help. The disturbance appeared to have been defused until Jayveon Williams, a 22-year-old resident of Slatington Place in Palm Coast, appeared to approach another man and, according to Williams’s arrest report, “take a fighting stance.” The crowd that had been dispersing re-converged. A police officer told the two men to disengage. The man Williams was confronting did so, but Williams allegedly ran after him even as others attempted to stop him. An officer eventually grabbed him and arrested him for disorderly conduct and breach of peace.
Later that night in Palm Coast, Stacy Wilson, a 40-year-old resident of Breeze Hill lane in Palm Coast, was arrested and charged with felony criminal mischief, causing damage in excess of $1,000, for allegedly becoming belligerent at a July 4 party on Burland Place, gouging two vehicles paint with a key. Wilson was booked at the jail after a trip to the local hospital, due to her level of intoxication, according to her arrest report.
Firefighters on the island got busy, too just as the 9 p.m. fireworks started rocketing off the pier. “I had some extra crews on the south end of town because of the construction,” Flagler Beach Capt. Steve Cox said. “One of the crews, at South 26 and A1A, they actually said they noticed smoke from the dunes, and they committed to a call to it. When they got there they confirmed active flames and smoke and said it was becoming a large brush fire, so I had another crew down there as well.” A Palm Coast Fire Department crew was just over the bridge and crossed over to help with a brush truck. “It was knocked down before it became severe. The crews responded to another one 15 minutes later, within the same area.” That one, too, was eliminated quickly.
In the morning there was “a large amount of heat-related incidents,” with four such related calls, but none requiring hospitalization. (One person was taken to the hospital on a different issue. Details about it are not known.) “The thing that saved us was that rain, the rain came through and cooled everything down.”
Doughney said the island emptied of revelers with remarkable speed after the fireworks, with traffic flowing out with great efficiency: it was over by around 11 p.m., he said, crediting Bob Pickering’s REACT team, Flagler County Emergency Management’s Jonathan Lord and Flagler County Sheriff Rick Staly, who’d sent extra manpower to the island. A1A construction, he said, seemed not to interfere.
As for the fireworks off the pier, this year’s edition elicited an unusual rebuke from no less than Flagler Beach Commissioner Rick Belhumeur: “Very disappointed with this year’s fireworks. Paid more, got less!,” he wrote on his Facebook page. Brevity in fireworks is not the soul of hits.