Angry that a tourist visiting our wonderful city has her life ended with such little regard from outsiders

By GARY SHERWIN

I like to consider myself a tolerant guy who can appreciate the differences and struggles others are experiencing. You try and believe in the best of your fellow humans. But right now, I am furious, thanks to some L.A.-based thugs, and my anger has no productive outlet.

I am referring to the senseless killing of one of our visitors, 68-year-old Patricia McKay from New Zealand during the July 4th holiday period last week. A three-person group of dopey idiots thought it would be cool to come and score some easy jewelry and luxury goods and maybe some cash at Fashion Island.

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Courtesy of Visit Newport Beach

Gary Sherwin

McKay came to Orange County from a faraway place to experience some of our destination magic, only to have her husband make preparations to have her remains flown home.

As someone whose professional mission is to promote our city around the world, there is no worse situation you can face. A visitor coming to your city expecting to enjoy themselves only to experience a horrific outcome is a true nightmare.

Now, the legal system says that the suspects are innocent until proven guilty. But based on the ridiculous freeway chase that followed the attempted robbery that was captured on video, it is clearly evident we have the killers. A big thank you to the Newport Beach Police and other law enforcement agencies for following these suspects and beginning the march to justice. They’ve made the pain a little bit easier to endure knowing these criminals are behind bars.

It goes without saying that Newport Beach is a very safe place to live, visit and work. Fashion Island has a solid security system, too, and I have never worried about going there. And none of that changes with this isolated horrific incident.

But still, the random nature of this crime is disturbing. And the fact that these killers, whose botched robbery ended up taking the life of an innocent woman by running her over, cause me and I’m sure all of you, tremendous heartache.

It was also a story that has run all over the world. Even a friend who lives on the island of Cyprus saw it lead the news there. While it is a black eye to our reputation, that’s nothing compared to losing your loved one during what is supposed to be a happy, carefree vacation.

In situations like this, you think what could we have done to prevent this? Unfortunately, I don’t think we could have done much, a statement that in itself is also troubling. These thugs thought it would be an easy score to come down here, target supposedly wealthy shoppers, and take their stuff. If it didn’t work out, then use a gun, which they tried to do on a Good Samaritan, Beau Bayless, who tried to intervene.

You could argue about gun laws or keeping criminals like this off the street in the first place. But stupid people who are prone to criminal activity are hard to control although tougher laws can sometimes, but not always, work.

You could also increase security presence, but do any of us really want to see more officers on every street corner? No one wants to live in a police state, and what does that say to our visitors who wonder why we need so much security everywhere they look? Can it be comforting? Perhaps. Will it raise unpleasant questions? Definitely.

I suspect people will want to see more security in the short term, and that is to be expected. But I still don’t see a viable and politically feasible long-term solution to outright prevent bad people from hurting others here and around the country in the future.

Some have suggested that we stop marketing in L.A., where these hoodlums live. But that assumes only bad people live in L.A. when, in fact, most of our visitors from that area are good people from affluent neighborhoods and the base for most of our hotel business. We had tens of thousands of them last weekend, and the vast majority were well-behaved. It also feeds into a destructive narrative that we should cut and run because three criminals came to town. I don’t subscribe to the theory that we should hide and let the bad guys win while hurting our local economy.

Look at what happened in Chicago over the holiday weekend where 11 people were killed due to gunfire. The situation was different from ours since it appeared to be locals killing other locals, but lives were lost, nonetheless. Just up the road, two people were killed during a stabbing on July 4th in Huntington Beach. We are not alone, nor immune when it comes to horrible crimes.

National figures indicate that overall crime is declining in the U.S. over previous years. But all that doesn’t matter if a deadly incident happens in your city, especially in an area that is usually safe and secure.

The unfortunate reality of living in America in 2024 is that stories like this have become all too common and people have short attention spans. We can’t keep up with all the shootings and when and where they all happen. People tend to forget.

But let’s do a service to Patricia McKay, and her husband who tried valiantly to save her, and not forget. Let’s remember her when our elected leaders try to address criminal behavior with sensible laws that disincentivize would-be criminals from pulling this inhuman act in the first place.

I’m furious right now, and there is nowhere to channel this. But my pain is nothing compared to the family of a well-meaning visitor who trusted us to have a safe and secure respite only to find criminals ready to kill her for an expensive watch.

I wish we could easily solve this problem through legislation, but idiots are idiots, and we can’t completely escape them. But we can display empathy for the victims and work where we might to prevent this in the future.

Newport Beach is a safe place to visit, and this incident can’t change that. But right now, it seems appropriate to marinate in the pain for the life of a person who came here looking for fun before it went tragically wrong.

Let’s be clear, I’m not a hater. I’d like to think of the better angels on my shoulder. But something like this makes that toxic feeling all too real and very inviting.

Gary Sherwin is President & CEO of Visit Newport Beach and Newport Beach & Company.


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