***Update*** An earlier version of this article said the driver was arrested. Police issued citations, but did not arrest the driver.
Mayor, police chief say car event came just to raise havoc
(Oct. 4, 2019) City officials and the Ocean City Police Department are brainstorming for ways to prevent another H2Oi-style event in the resort, following a nightmarish weekend when thousands of modified foreign cars took over the roads and their drivers dominated law enforcement’s attention.
“We had a group come to town, and they were here with the sole purpose of raising havoc throughout our community, and that’s just not acceptable,” Mayor Rick Meehan said.
“The level of disrespect [toward law enforcement] is something we have never seen,” Police Chief Ross Buzzuro said. “I want to stress this point that the group of individuals this weekend … they had issues with law enforcement. We did our very best to handle this, and at times it was very, very taxing for us.”
Ocean City residents began to see trickles of modified and foreign cars filtering into the resort last Wednesday for what was billed for an unofficial H2Oi event. By the following Friday, the city had been overtaken.
H2Oi stands for Water-cooled International and references specific German cars such as Volkswagen and Audi. But in Ocean City, it has come to represent all small, highly modified foreign cars.
Hundreds of officers from OCPD, the Worcester County Sheriff’s Office, the Maryland State Police, Maryland Transit Administration Police and the Natural Resources Police worked around the clock last weekend to control the vehicular melee and to protect the population. They also issued a staggering number of traffic citations.
“A preliminary report shows over 1,500 traffic citations were issued this weekend,” OCPD Spokeswoman Ashley Miller said. “This figure includes citations issued from OCPD and the allied agencies. This figure will increase as the data from the weekend continues to get entered into the system.”
Last year, police issued 1,280 traffic citations.
Miller said the total cost of citations would be difficult to calculate, but individual citations could cost up to $1,000 for speeding in Special Event Zones.
Miller also wanted to clarify that the city makes no money from citations issued. All money received from citations goes to the state.
The cost of overtime pay for officers during the weekend was also unavailable, as it is still being calculated, she said.
Despite the explosion of vehicles in Ocean City over the three-day period, Buzzuro said in a Monday press conference that few, if any, serious injuries were reported.
That would be surprising, given the chaos on the streets captured by videos and photos and posted online on social media sites.
Crowds can be seen blocking police vehicles attempting to initiate traffic stops, people setting off illegal fireworks in the middle of Philadelphia Avenue, costumed spectators weaving into the streets and through crowds and cars fishtailing and doing donuts with nothing to block them from bystanders.
One video, which has more than 3,800 views on Twitter, shows a car drifting — when a driver intentionally oversteers during a turn to create a gliding effect — and almost slamming into the person recording.
Buzzuro described the participants as “hostile” toward law enforcement, adding that this hostility seemed to fester each day, sometimes resulting in violence.
Participants reportedly threw rocks and glass bottles at officers, and became physically violent during arrests.
One officer reported being surrounded by a mob of 50 or 80 participants, yelling at him for arresting a participant and attempting to physically remove the participant from the officer’s grasp.
Participants blasted police online after a photo showing a woman being arrested at gunpoint by officers, as well as a video that shows an officer Tasing a participant began circulating on social media outlets.
“Can we identify this police officer who Tasered someone for being a bystander during H2Oi in Ocean City this Saturday,” a Twitter user tweeted, which garnered 673 retweets, 743 likes and 29 comments.
The video itself has more than 30,000 views.
During a press conference on Monday, OCPD Chief Ross Buzzuro said he did not know the exact details for these two incidents, but that they would be reviewed.
Perhaps the most horrific moment this weekend occurred Friday night, when a white BMW veered into a crowd of bystanders and struck pedestrians.The pedestrians did not sustain serious injuries, and both refused medical treatment.
Police issued citations to the driver, and then released him.
While Buzzuro and Meehan could not release specific details on what steps they might pursue to prevent a repeat of the weekend, they did say they were working with state agencies in an attempt to increase Special Event Zone fines, and expand punishable traffic violations.
“I’m very fortunate to have some of the finest men and women in law enforcement,” Buzzuro said. “All of our allied agencies along with the Ocean City Police Department worked this weekend … well above and beyond their call of duty. Putting themselves out there … in harm’s way to protect this community, and they certainly need recognition.”