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Domestic Dispute which goes bad and gets worse in court.

Many times, especially during domestic disturbances, people want the police officer to be a referee. They know you will step in if things get too hot so they use this for a chance to say or do things they would not normally say or do. All too often this leads to an explosive situation. The officer is not always aware of what is going on until it is too late. Many officers have been hurt or killed while handling domestic disputes. They are all very dangerous situations and the officer has to be ready to react quickly.

The dispatcher gave one of my men, who happened to be a K-9 handler, a call of a domestic dispute between a husband and wife who had been separated for sometime. I heard the call over the radio and recognized the names. This couple had been having domestic troubles for years. I was closer to the location then the other officer so I told him I would handle it if he would back me up.

I arrived at the house. As I got out of my car I saw the other Deputy coming down the street so I waited on him. He arrived and we walked up to the house. The husband opened the front door and we stepped inside. The door opened into the living room. Straight ahead of us was a console television against the wall to our right. The rest of the living room spread out ahead of us and to our left. The couple had three children from about seven years old to a girl of fifteen. The children lived with their father, in this house. The mother had moved out.

Once we were inside, the husband said he wanted his wife removed from the residence. I asked him what was going on and he stated that he had custody of the children. His wife had come to pick them up for the weekend and they had all gone out to supper together. During supper they had a couple of drinks and one thing lead to another and by the time they got back to the house they were arguing. He held out what he said was a restraining order stating that until their case got to court neither of them was to bother the other one. The paper in his hand was ripped into little pieces. He said she had ripped it up when he called for an officer.

I told him it didn't matter whether the paper was ripped or not because I was not going to try to enforce it. Restraining orders are tricky in the best of situations, and in this case they had both violated it, thereby making it void just by going out to supper together. I told both of them that restraining orders were made to keep people apart so trouble would not start. They could not be forgotten all night until trouble started then selectively enforced. I told them if the wife was going to take the children for the weekend, why not take them and leave, that would solve the problem.

The wife informed me that she could not leave because he had taken the coil off her car so it would not run. I asked him about this but he said it was not true. My hopes of solving this dispute quickly had faded so I told them both that I would listen to their whole stories one at a time starting with her.

She started out with the same old thing about how they had not been able to make their marriage work and progressed to where he as a bum. While she was talking, she was standing in front of the console television facing me and he was standing to my left beside her. The other officer had been standing behind me. He stepped outside to let his dog know that he was all right. The dogs are trained to keep their eyes on their masters and they become very upset when they can't see them for a few minutes. The front door had been open but a screen door kept the dog from seeing his handler. The officer stepped out and called to the dog to be quiet. He had been barking and becoming more upset as time went by.

The officer stepped out because everything seemed under control. About the time he got out the door the woman said, "And he's mad because he's afraid when we get to court I'll say something about him having sex with his own fifteen-year old daughter!"

I looked up from my notebook as the husband caught her with a right hook to the jaw which knocked her sideways onto the television. I dropped my flashlight, pen and notebook as he jumped on her and grabbed her around the neck.

I shouted for the other officer and at the same time I grabbed the husband and pulled him off her. The other Deputy was just opening the screen door coming to help me but he wasn't coming quickly enough for me, so I threw the man out the door at him. They both landed in a heap on the concrete steps. I dove on top of the heap. My back-up had been caught off guard but reacted quickly and had grabbed the man from behind. He wrapped one arm over the man's shoulder and around his neck, with the other arm he tried to grab hold of the man's right arm.

I tried to get both his arms so I could handcuff him. I heard the other officer scream and looked up to see that the man had the officer's hand in his mouth and was biting it. I slammed my fist into his stomach as hard as I could. He released his bite. During all this the six year old boy was running around swatting at me and the other officer yelling for us to leave his Daddy alone. Also, the other officer's dog was going crazy in the back of his patrol car. We found later that he had bitten the seats and ripped the molding on the doors trying to get out to help his master.

After several more minutes of struggling we were able to get him handcuffed and under control. We also located the coil to the wife's car under the seat of his truck. We put it back on her car for her and made sure she was not hurt, then took the husband to jail. We arrested him for assault and battery and resisting arrest.

The assault and battery charge went before the local Magistrate and the resisting arrest went to General Sessions court. The Magistrate court case came up first. During the trial I called the wife to the stand, but she told the Judge that she had provoked her husband and had deserved to be hit. She told the Judge that we had no right to get involved because it was between the two of them.

The Judge told her that it didn't matter what she thought, if her husband hit her and we saw it we were right to charge him. The Judge found him guilty. It felt good to get the conviction but it sure left a bad taste in my mouth. We had to fight the man and get scraped and cut on the concrete, and my partner was bitten trying to protect a woman who wouldn't even help us in court. Another hard lesson learned. End result: the officers get colder, harder, and less caring.

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

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