Inside the K-Coast Surf Shop in Ocean City, where Gavin Knupp often visited with friends in the summertime, employee Miah Schwind received a text from a friend around 10 a.m. Monday that charges had been filed against a man in connection with Knupp’s tragic death last July.

“Wait, what?” she thought. In the months since his death, she’d heard things about the case that hadn’t turned out to be true. She wanted to be sure what she was hearing was real. So she checked social media, and the news covered her feeds on Snapchat and Instagram.

“It was a surreal-type moment,” Schwind said. “I was just relieved, just super relieved. Like, finally there’s been justice.”

Schwind, 18, has worked the shop for around four years, she said. Around a year or so ago, she started noticing Knupp and his friends coming into the shop once or twice a week in the summer, she said. They’d come in and leave their surfboards in the shop, she remembers. They’d skateboard around town.

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After the 14-year-old Knupp was fatally struck on a road outside of Ocean City, the shop put up a sign on the front of its building: “Justice for Gavin.”

“The news was so good to hear,” she said of the arrest Monday. “It definitely didn’t need to take this long, but glad it worked out the way it did.”

Knupp’s close friend Julian Zimmer, 16, works at K-Coast, too. He’d been friends with Knupp for several years, and the two had gotten very close in the three or so months before his death. They’d hang out every day, Zimmer said.

When he learned the news from his stepdad on Monday, Zimmer felt a “bunch of emotions,” he said. He was happy, he said, because the man he believes is responsible could be going to jail.

Zimmer was also surprised. The first few months after Knupp’s death, he’d think: “I really hope they catch him.” But since then, he’d lost some hope, in part because so much time had passed, he said.

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Knupp’s death galvanized the close-knit community of Ocean City and Ocean Pines’ year-round residents. Tens of thousands joined movements on Facebook and TikTok demanding charges in the case. Local businesses posted signs demanding “Justice for Gavin” and “Do it for Gavin.”

Charges have been filed against Tyler Mailloux, who authorities believe is the driver of the Mercedes that struck Knupp. He faces 17 charges in connection with the crash, according to police charging documents, including failing to immediately return and remain at the scene of an accident involving death, failing to render aid to an injured person, and failing to report the accident, among other charges.

Since the news broke, people have poured out their support for the Knupp family on social media. On Facebook, a post about Mailloux’s charges has garnered more than 780 comments and has been shared more than 550 times.

“About time,” several people wrote. Others said they were in tears.

“I am so happy for your family I’m actually crying. … and I don’t know you personally but feel like I do after watching this for so long, following it almost daily. This is the best news for all involved with the Knupp family. I truly hope and pray the charges are fully prosecuted,” one post said.

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“I literally got goose bumps when I got a call telling me this had happened. Everything you guys fought for has finally happened,” said another Facebook supporter.

At the Southgate Grill in Ocean Pines, the charges have been “a topic of conversation since about 10 o’clock this morning,” said manager Mike Van Meers. Patrons are talking about it. Virtually every employee has had a conversation about it.

“Everybody’s ecstatic,” Van Meers said.

He is happy for Gavin Knupp’s mother, he said, that she may “finally get some closure.”

Inside the restaurant, a large poster with a picture of Knupp is on display. For around six or seven months, they took donations at the bar for the The Gavin Knupp Foundation.

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With the charges filed, “I think everybody’s feeling a little bit relieved that it’s going to start to finally take shape,” Van Meers said. “For people to stop wondering about when something’s going to happen.”

cadence.quaranta@thebaltimorebanner.com

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