Threats of gang violence led to the cancellation of Fourth of July fireworks in Hamlet, North Carolina.
Hamlet City Manager Jonathan Blanton said officials did not rush into their decision, calling it “very devastating,” WSOC-TV Channel 9 reports.
People normally crowd the streets of downtown Hamlet, 80 miles southeast of Charlotte, for the annual Independence Day celebration.
Investigators said the threats were about gang-retaliation for the murder last week of Tierrell Martin outside a Hamlet convenience store. The threats were not directed at police or spectators, but officials wanted to be as safe as possible.
Some were angered by the decision and lashed out at officials on the city’s Facebook page, calling the decision cowardly and insisting that the event should have gone ahead with enhanced security. Some critics contrasted the city’s decision with the bravery and determination of those who fought for America’s freedom, the reason for the Fourth of July holiday.
Martin, 20, was fatally shot around 12:15 a.m. last Wednesday in the parking lot of a Circle B convenience store in an area that is “rife with shootings and robberies” believed to be gang-related, according to the Richmond County Daily Journal. Martin had a criminal past and had spent time in jail.
The Circle B store was the site for the start of a march against violence just days before Martin was killed.
The police department is forming a gang task force with law enforcement across the county, according to WSOC-TV.