MYRTLE BEACH, SC (WMBF) - On Tuesday, the Myrtle Beach police community gathered together to remember Officer Joe McGarry, who was shot and killed in 2002 while questioning a suspect.
Each year since his death, friends and family have gathered at the police station to remember McGarry. The MBPD made a post on Facebook, the top of which read, "Gone, but never forgotten by your brothers and sisters in blue".
The post explained how McGarry was killed. It said he and his partner were investigating a suspicious person on North Kings Highway at 12:30 a.m. on December 29, 2002. The officers were inside a restaurant when they noticed a group of suspicious people. They asked the group of four to step outside to talk. As they were talking to a male, later identified as Luzenski Cottrell, he pulled out a .45 caliber handgun and opened fire, firing a shot into McGarry's head. McGarry's partner returned fire, hitting Cottrell in the leg.
Luzenski Cottrell was retried last year for the crime, and was found guilty of murder. His prison record shows he's now on death row at Lieber Correctional Institute. While the department of corrections doesn't list an execution date, Cottrell is one of 42 people currently on death row in South Carolina.
"I was starting to make plans for a wedding and then everything was completely opposite in 81 seconds," said Holly Sinkway, McGarry's former fiance back in 2014 when Cottrell was sentenced. "I went from wearing white to wearing black a weekend later. I ordered flowers for a funeral instead of for a wedding."
Sergeant Mike Guthinger testified in the 2014 retrial that he was with Officer Joe McGarry from the beginning. He assisted him on a traffic stop earlier in the night when the two then decided to make a quick pit stop.
"Just going to run in and run out real quick," Guthinger said. "I didn't even intend on getting anything. I was thinking he was going to get his coffee and take off."
But upon arrival, the two spotted Cottrell ,and McGarry quickly recognized him as a suspect from a shooting in Horry County.
"...and he went from you know, happy Joe…to police mode," Guthinger said.
Guthinger explained in court they followed Cottrell and two friends out of Dunkin Donuts and how McGarry's attempt to get Cottrell's information quickly turned into a struggle. Guthinger acted it out for the court to show where McGarry's hands were on Cottrell. Only a few steps behind him, Guthinger tried to help.
"My mindset was - Joe's got the right side, I'm going to control that left hand. I'm going to go and get that left hand," Guthinger said.
Guthinger found they were standing in a triangle.
"Both of them faced off. Both of them squared off at each other. We're in that triangle position again. Next thing I knew I saw the gun flash…heard a couple shots…I watched Joe get shot in the face," Guthinger said.
McGarry had served with the MBPD for four years and was assigned to the Street Crimes Unit.