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Domestic Dispute with no Backup in Sight

During the first several years that I was on the Sheriff's Department I worked both the Beaufort side of the county and the Hilton Head side. Often when I worked Hilton Head there were only two of us or at the most three of us working at one time. We learned to handle many types of calls by ourselves just because there were many times a back-up was not available. Sometimes your back-up was twenty or thirty miles away. It would be nice to think that the public, the people you are trying to help, would come to your aid, but you quickly learn that all too often they won't lift a hand to help. There are people out there who will go out of their way to help an officer, but they seem to be few and far between. It appears that a lot of people feel that the officers are paid to take the risks and they aren't paid to get hurt trying to assist the Police. This may be true but the officer sees it as just another example of how the public does not care about him. The wall between the officer and the people he is paid to protect becomes bigger.

I received a disturbance call to a duplex apartment complex on Hilton Head. The neighbors called and said it sounded like a fight was going on next door. There were about twenty duplex units in this complex. It was early evening and when I arrived I found about half the residents outside in their yards watching what was going on.

I could hear shouting coming from the unit I had been sent to. I approached the apartment knowing that my back-up would not arrive for at least ten minutes, due to his location at the time of the call. The door flew open as I got about twenty feet from it. A man in his early twenties, about my size, came out. He walked as if he were going to just go by me. I told him I wanted to talk to him.

He said something to the effect that he didn't want to talk to me. He was still about five feet from me when a girl came out of the apartment. She was crying and bleeding from the nose and mouth. She pointed at the man and stated that he had beat her up and busted up her apartment.

The man was even with me by this time and still walking, so I held out my hand to stop him and told him I wanted to talk to him. He pushed me and started running. He headed straight toward a group of about ten neighbors who were out in the street watching the show. They parted like the Red Sea as he got to them. They were shouting for me to get him, but that was as much support as they were willing to give me.

I caught him in the middle of the street and told him he was under arrest. He took a swing at me and we struggled for a minute or so. He was trying to get away and I was trying to get his arms behind him. I lost my grip and he took off running again.

I ran him down this time in the front yard of the duplex across the street, again people were all around us, but they acted like this was all a game. I heard a lot of laughing and cheering. We struggled again but again he broke free and ran from me.

I was mad by this time and tired of playing around. I caught him as he was about to go around the corner of the building but this time instead of grabbing him I did a flying tackle on him from behind.

There was a large rose bush in front of us and he landed in the middle of it with me on top of him. Between me and the rose bush we managed to knock the fight out of him. I handcuffed him while he lay there in the rose bush I wasn't going to give him a chance to run again.

Both of us had blood on our faces and arms from the thorn pricks, as I walked him to my patrol car. The crowd was in a very festive mood now, they were clapping and cheering. They may not have cheered so loud if they had known what I thought of all the help they had given me.

My back-up arrived as I was putting my prisoner in the back of my patrol car. Even though everything was over, it surely was good to see another uniform.

Ralph L. Dettwiler
(Former) Sergeant
Beaufort County Sheriff's Department
Beaufort, South Carolina

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