Luzenski Cottrell was sentenced to death by the State of South Carolina for the murder of a police officer. According to court documents Luzenski Cottrell would shoot and kill Myrtle Beach police officer Joe McGarry during an arrest. Luzenski Cottrell would be arrested, convicted and sentenced to death
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Admission Date: 04/27/2005
Location: Broad River
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hortly after midnight on December 29, 2002, McGarry and fellow police officer Mike Guthinger entered a Dunkin Donuts in the city of Myrtle Beach. Both officers were in uniform and on duty, completing a traffic stop a short time earlier before deciding to get coffee. Upon entering Dunkin Donuts, McGarry immediately recognized Cottrell, who was ordering coffee at the register with two companions, Diane Lawson and Fred Halcomb. McGarry was familiar with Cottrell, having had several previous encounters with him, including arresting Cottrell for possession with intent to distribute marijuana earlier that year. More significantly, Lt. Amy Prock of the Myrtle Beach Police Department had recently notified McGarry that Cottrell had been identified as a possible suspect 1 in the shooting death of Rick Hartman, whose body had been found in a rural part of Horry County roughly a month earlier.
Upon recognizing Cottrell, McGarry informed Guthinger that Cottrell was identified as a suspect in a shooting and that he was possibly carrying a gun. Rather than proceed in line to get coffee, McGarry and Guthinger exited the Dunkin Donuts and approached Cottrell on the sidewalk as he stepped out the door. McGarry asked Cottrell whether he remembered him, and then inquired as to whether he had taken care of the previous charges for which McGarry had arrested him. Cottrell indicated they were all taken care of. At that point, McGarry asked Cottrell for his identification and informed him he was going to run an NCIC check to see if Cottrell had any outstanding warrants.
While waiting for a response from the dispatcher after calling in Cottrell’s information, McGarry indicated to Cottrell that he was going to perform a pat-down for weapons. Cottrell told McGarry “no” before turning and walking away toward another vehicle driven by Donnie Morgan, who was part of Cottrell’s group but unknown to the officers at the time. Cottrell’s right hand was somewhere near the front of his waistband as he turned and walked away.2 McGarry then immediately began yelling for Cottrell to stop and show his hands. When Cottrell did not comply, McGarry unholstered his weapon and again commanded Cottrell to show his hands. With Cottrell’s back still turned to him, McGarry reholstered his weapon and rushed towards Cottrell from behind, struggling to grab Cottrell’s right hand which was near the front of his waistband, while McGarry’s left hand was somewhere on Cottrell’s upper back or shoulder, attempting to gain control of him.
The pair stumbled and separated as they slid toward the rear of the Morgan vehicle. As they regained their balance and squared up, Cottrell raised a .45 caliber handgun and fired a shot, striking McGarry in the face from eight to twelve inches away. The shot incapacitated McGarry, who fell backwards and struck his head on the pavement.3
Immediately upon seeing Cottrell shoot McGarry, Guthinger drew his weapon and fired several shots at Cottrell, striking him in the leg as Cottrell sought cover behind Morgan’s car.4 Guthinger and Cottrell continued to exchange gunfire, and numerous vehicles and nearby buildings were struck by bullets. At some point during the shootout, Cottrell told Guthinger he was surrendering, prompting Guthinger to leave his protected position to place him under arrest. However, as he approached, Cottrell reloaded his firearm and resumed shooting at Guthinger, who retreated to cover and called for backup.
Cottrell fled the scene and responding officers engaged in a high speed chase through Myrtle Beach until his getaway vehicle was brought to a halt using stop sticks to disable the tires, and he was placed under arrest. Police recovered the .45 caliber weapon that was forensically matched to the bullet which killed McGarry, along with another loaded .357 revolver in the backseat. Officers attempted to perform CPR on McGarry, but he passed away in the Dunkin Donuts parking lot.