ST. JOSEPH, Mich. (WOOD) — Five people were arrested on the Fourth of July after a beach party got out of control, according to the Berrien County Sheriff’s Department.
“At one point, it’s reported they started chanting, ‘USA, USA’ and objects started to be thrown. There was some pushing and shoving and then some fights did break out,” Berrien County Undersheriff Chuck Heit said.
“I’ve done July 4th’s since 1993 and we have not had an incident like this,” Brian Bailey, the parks director for Berrien County, said.
Police say there was record number of people at Silver Beach on Saturday. The crowd of at least 150 that caused problems was estimated to be mostly people in their late teens and early 20s.
“Obviously, it’s very unfortunate people chose to act in the manner they did. We felt sorry for the families that were amongst that area. We will take every effort we can to work with the Parks Department to make sure it’s a safe place to visit,” Heit said.
There were police already on hand at the beach, but when the crowd started to get more out of hand around 9 p.m., more were called in.
“All of a sudden, the big party where the beer pong table was split in half,” recalled Grayson Sherrod, who was at the beach on Saturday. “People are screaming like, ‘USA.’ ranting. Bottles start throwing from both sides at the other crowd. They were putting fireworks in the glass bottles and they were throwing them at each other. Some was going everywhere.”
Two people were arrested for controlled substance violations, two for being disorderly and one for assault, officials said.
“People that were part of the fight say it wasn’t that bad. Where the families were sitting seeing it, I would be really mad if I had kids here. I probably would never come back here for 4th of July,” Sherrod said.
One woman was injured when her eye was gashed by a flying bottle. Sherrod, who was nearby, heard her yell in pain. He rushed to help her.
“Just trying to get her from there with her eye pouring blood to where we needed to go was crazy. People were running into her and like her eye was bad. We were trying to push them out of the way but everyone was crazy at that point,” Sherrod said.
The sheriff’s office said it hasn’t seen a similar incident in the past 20 years at Silver Beach. They will be working with the Berrien County Parks Department to see what can be done to prevent similar incidents.
“For those that want to make poor decision and cause problems for families that are there, it will not be tolerated,” Heit said.
Editor’s note: A previous version of this story incorrectly reported four, not five people, were arrested. We apologize for the error.