Panama City Beach, FL – Over 160 people were arrested and at least 75 illegal guns were seized by police after a mob of violent criminals descended on the popular beachside community of Panama City Beach over the weekend, according to police.
Traffic was gridlocked and multiple businesses closed up shop over the weekend as the riotous group tore through the town, WBMM reported.
A frenzy of social media posts from concerned residents and visitors soon followed, to include complaints of people jumping on cars and causing chaos in local businesses.
Pedestrians struggled to get down the sidewalks due to the densely-packed throngs of people.
“We were getting run over by people,” visitor Ladariya Gurley told WBBM. “They were pushing us.”
One clip from inside a Walmart showed a rowdy crowd of people trashing the store and throwing merchandise throughout the aisles.
Watch: Rowdy Crowds Disrupt Businesses and Traffic (Walmart Panama City Beach) pic.twitter.com/mPdG4GeOud
— ipoppingvideos (@ipoppingvideos) March 27, 2022
Police shut down a two-mile stretch of Front Beach Road beginning at approximately 9 p.m. on Saturday, according to FOX News.
Gunfire broke out at a Waffle House on Front Beach Road on Sunday, the Panama City News Herald reported.
A 21-year-old Alabama man suffered a gunshot wound to his foot, according to police.
During another incident, a police officer suffered a cut to his head after someone hit him with a beer bottle, WBBM reported.
Another officer was bitten by a member of the mob, according to WJHG.
A vast majority of the group had either left town or was in jail by late Sunday, according to police.
I just wanted to put this out here but this is something the media may not show you About Panama City Beach during spring break. Pray for my cuty thank you. pic.twitter.com/SDLnsEbzXI
— Christian Penn (@Cpsfuneral) March 28, 2022
Panama City Beach Police Department (PCBPD) Chief J.R. Talamantez, Panama City Police Department (PCPD) Chief Mark Smith, Bay County Sheriff Tommy Ford and a contingent of area law enforcement officials held a press conference Monday to discuss the mayhem, the Panama City News Herald reported.
They emphasized that the mob that descended on the city was not comprised of college students on spring break, despite countless media assertions to the contrary.
The law enforcement leaders classified them as “criminals,” more than half of whom came to the city from Alabama.
“I personally encountered an individual holding an AR-15 who is now in custody,” Chief Talamantez said, according to WBBM. “These are the type of individuals that we’re facing. Throwing beer bottles at police officers. Shooting right down the road. There were blue lights up and down the road as these shootings took place.”
Police arrested 161 people and seized 75 firearms over the course of the weekend, WBBM reported.
A sprawling display of seized firearms could be seen on tables in front of the law enforcement leaders during the press conference on Monday.
“These guns were taken over a period of two days,” Chief Talamantez told reporters. “It could arm a small army. Semiautomatic weapons, long rifles – these are weapons brought to a resort destination. These are weapons brought to a beach.”
Press conference with Panama City Beach Police Department. United as law enforcement and local government. Criminal activity will NOT be tolerated in the Bay County area! @PanamaCityPd @BayCountySO @FLHSMV @beach_panama @FLHSMV @WMBBTV @WJHG_TV pic.twitter.com/voCKe0Q6ay
— FHP Panhandle (@FHPPanhandle) March 28, 2022
Police said the mob came to town with the intention of wreaking havoc.
“The blatant disregard for public safety that these individuals are having will not be tolerated,” Chief Talamantez said. “What we saw this past weekend is absolutely unacceptable…The crowd that has been here this weekend, there is no words that can describe the way they have behaved themselves, conducted themselves, and the amount of laws they have broken.”
Chief Talamantez called the mob “pathetic cowards” who hid behind firearms while they terrorized others.
Sheriff Ford credited the unified front created by local law enforcement agencies for preventing any tragedies from occurring.
“We were faced with dangerous circumstances but stood firm in protecting our county,” Sheriff Ford said. “Each one of these 75 firearms…represents a violent encounter with law enforcement, and I’m so proud of the law enforcement officers who stood in that gap (between) citizens and the criminals who were carrying these guns.”
“Every time one of our brave officers confronted these 75 individuals (who had the guns), it was an opportunity for that brave officer to have lost (their) life or been forced to take someone else’s life,” Chief Smith added, according to the Panama City News Herald. “This is not what Bay County is about, (and) not what Panama City Beach is about.”
#Watch what appears to be gunshots in the Long Beach area in Panama City Beach. Officials say 1 person was shot and has non-life threatening injuries. 3 suspects have been arrested. pic.twitter.com/Clmx3NiYvQ
— Steven Maxwell (@TVStevenMaxwell) March 28, 2022
Police said had been monitoring social media and preparing for the potential surge in violence for weeks.
Seventy-eight of those arrested were from Alabama.
“If they come from Alabama and they’re going to commit a crime with a gun, they may very well be our guests for 10 years,” Sheriff Ford told WSFA.
“If you come here to act like a criminal, we’ll treat you like one,” he added.
The sheriff said the crowd was part of the “PCB Takeover,” which had been promoted on social media for weeks, WVTM reported.
Got us a bit of a happening in Panama City Beach yesterday pic.twitter.com/3f91euByKU
— Hyper Intelligent Man (@v3rysmartboi) March 27, 2022
“Sheriff Tommy Ford credits the successful handling of the ‘PCB Takeover’ crowds using technology and intelligence to target trouble spots and spontaneous crowds,” the sheriff’s office said in a press release, according to the news outlet.
These tactics helped police “specifically target and disrupt” the group’s activities, the Bay County Sheriff’s Office noted.
Panama City Beach Mayor Mark Sheldon reiterated that those responsible for the violence were not college kids letting loose on spring break, WBBM reported.
“This was not spring breakers, so trust me when I tell you, this is just a bad element of people who did this,” Sheldon said. “If you want to come here and be a bad person, you picked the wrong place. Panama City Beach is a family destination, and that’s not going to change.”
Chief Talamantez said he knows local residents are frustrated and tired of the mayhem.
“Trust me, we are frustrated too,” he said during the press conference on Monday. “The harsh reality is we cannot control who comes to town. But what we can control is what happens to you if you commit a crime in this town. We will hold you accountable.”