Five Delaware residents, all area firefighters, were arrested last week after allegedly smashing mailboxes with watermelons in Bishopville, Md.
On Oct. 4, around 1 a.m., the Worcester County Sheriff’s office received a report that a dark truck with several people were riding around destroying property. According to the sheriff’s office, upon pulling over a vehicle that matched the description, a Maryland State trooper located four people in the bed of the truck along with the driver.
“Also in the truck of the bed were 29 watermelons,” officials said.
Addison Hill-Bittner, 22, of Rehoboth Beach, Sean MaGee, 23, of Selbyville, Franklin Martin, 23, of Milton, Stewart Pryor, 28, of Millsboro, and Dylan Sharp, 19, of Milton were all taken into custody and each charged with 16 counts of malicious destruction of property, less than $500, and one count of malicious destruction of property, greater than $500.
The investigation in Maryland found that a total of 14 mailboxes, a Waste Management trash can and the sign of the Wilson United Methodist Church were damaged.
According to the sheriff’s office, “the suspects were riding along Bishopville Road and Saint Martin’s Neck Road throwing watermelons at mailboxes attempting to destroy them.”
All five men reportedly admitted to be involved in the crimes and were arrested.
According to Maryland law, if the value of property damage is less than $500, the charge is a misdemeanor and carries a potential 60-day jail sentence and $500 fine. If the value is more than $500, the sentence is elevated to up to a maximum of three years and fines of $2,500.
Lt. Ed Schreier of the Worcester County Sheriff’s Office said that, in Maryland, the destruction of mailboxes is not a federal offence.
“Mailboxes are owned by the individual person,” he explained. “In this state it is the property owner that is the victim. When it comes to being broken, destroyed, it is handled within the state. The state law of malicious destruction would apply for these offences.”
Schreier said he did not have any information as to whether the men were intoxicated at the time the crimes occurred.
Schreier said there had not been any reports of stolen watermelons used, however it is believed that they originated from MaGee Farms in Selbyville and Lewes, owned by MaGee’s family.
Although reports of destroyed mailboxes had not been filed with the Delaware State Police earlier this week, Selbyville resident Joe Brumwell said at the town’s monthly meeting that he believes his mailbox was destroyed by the men as well.
“I don’t want ‘em charged. But if they want to man up, come fix it ...” he said.
According to the Lewes Fire Department’s Web site, all but MaGee were members of the company. However, earlier this year, MaGee did compete with Lewes in the Delaware BLS Games at the Delaware State Fire School, along with the four other men. All five either received a Gold or Siler Medal for their performance.
“It is an unfortunate incident. It is not a representation of the standard and moral fibers of what the Lewes Fire Department is about,” said Glenn Marshall, public information officer for the department.
Marshall said the members are currently suspended from the department until the legal matter is settled.
“It’s a black eye to the department but we are trying to rectify that with the community and the people that we serve. We do take the matter very seriously. We take great pains to ensure that we do our job, even though we are volunteers, professionally and represent the fire department and our community in a positive light,” he said. “We chose do things every day, that are positive and make a significant impact on the quality of people’s lives. Things like this are most certainly going to be newsworthy to some folks, but I would ask that people do not judge the whole department on the actions of a few.”
He said that he couldn’t comment as to whether the men had issues in the department prior to their arrest earlier this month, and added that the department will continue to provide excellent service to the community.
“While it was a mistake on their part, they are people who have provided quality service, some for several years,” he said. “We’re taking measures to own this and to address the issue. And to ensure the public that we’re still here to provide the professional quality response that we’ve had over the years we’ve served the community.”