A Charles County man has been charged with two counts of violating the emergency order limiting crowd size during the new coronavirus outbreak as authorities say he organized two events of more than 10 people in the past week.
Shawn Marshall Myers, 41, of Hughesville, was charged Saturday after the Charles County Sheriff’s Office was called out to a report of a large gathering at 10:30 p.m. Friday in the 15000 block of Lukes Lane in Hughesville.
Myers is the first person in the state to be arrested for violating Gov. Larry Hogan’s emergency order forbidding mass gatherings, according to the governor’s spokesman Mike Ricci.
Officers saw Myers, the homeowner, among 60 people at a bonfire on the property, the sheriff’s office wrote in a news release.
Myers refused to disperse the crowd, officials said, and he was charged after the Sheriff’s Office discussed the incident with the Charles County State’s Attorney’s Office.
On March 19, Hogan announced an amendment to his executive order limiting crowd size that would restrict events to 10 or fewer people to curb the spread of the COVID-19 illness caused by the coronavirus.
Despite the order, the governor has said repeatedly that some state residents were not observing proper social distancing measures and that authorities would ramp up efforts to enforce the new order.
It was the second time the sheriff’s office had been called to Myers’ home for a report of a large gathering, as officers had responded to a similar complaint on March 22, the sheriff’s office said. At that time, Myers agreed to disperse the crowd, per authorities’ request, the office said.
He has been charged with violating the order in relation to both incidents, court records show. The maximum penalties for violating the order are a $5,000 fine and up to a year in prison.
Myers is being held without bond after his initial appearance in Charles County District Court, online court records show.
Hogan publicly admonished Myers on Twitter for the alleged gatherings.
“I cannot begin to express my disgust towards such irresponsible, reckless behavior,” Hogan wrote.
In September 2012, Myers was sentenced to five years probation after he entered an Alford plea to one count of conspiracy to commit robbery related to a murder in 2004.
According to WJLA, Myers and Matthew Derek Correll were charged with the murder of Chris Mader on Thanksgiving Day 2004. While Myers received probation, Correll was sentenced to life in prison after he was found guilty of first-degree murder in 2012, court records show.
Myers has no attorney listed in court records.
To date, 33 cases of COVID-19 have been confirmed in Charles County, according to the state health department.
The sheriff’s office did not say whether anyone at the two gatherings has been tested for the coronavirus.
While Hogan amended the executive order on March 19, he has repeatedly criticized those seen gathering at bars and at the beach in large groups.
“Let me repeat, once again as strongly as I possibly can: If you are engaged in this activity, you are breaking the law and you are literally endangering the lives of your family, friends and fellow citizens,” Hogan said during a March 23 press conference.
Myers’ arrest should send a message to Marylanders that the state is “not playing around” when it comes to enforcing orders to protect public health, Hogan said on Fox & Friends Monday.
“We’ve been taking unprecedented and very aggressive action for 24 straight days,” Hogan said.
Maryland State Police wrote on Twitter that troopers “conducted more than 5,200 business and crowd compliance checks since Tuesday.”