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Yeah, I want him arrested as long as it doesn't cost anything!

The dispatcher notified me of a domestic disturbance in a small subdivision just outside of Beaufort. I was told that the complainant was the father who stated his son had come home drunk and was tearing up the house.

As most nights, we were short handed and I was the only unit in service at this time. All the other units were tied up on other calls. I would have to handle the call alone. This did not really bother me. The first three or four years I was on the Sheriff's Department we were undermanned. There just was not enough money for more officers, so it was not unusual for two to four of us to be the only officers on duty for the north end of the county. The same was true for the south end of the county. Everything north of Broad River being the north end and everything south of Broad River being the south end.

I feel that those of us that worked during these times were better officers because of it. We had to use our heads because we did not have a gang of people around to pull us out of a bad situation if we got ourselves into it.

I arrived at the house and knocked on the front door. A one legged man on crutches in his mid-fifties opened the door. He looked around me and said, "Where's the rest of the cops?"

I told him, "I'm alone. I'll take care of it. What's the problem?"

"It's my boy, but it will take more than just one of you to handle my boy!" He said it as if he were proud that his boy would be able to handle more then one officer.

"It only takes one of us," I said.

He stepped back into the room to let me enter. I walked in and saw a teenager, eighteen or nineteen, on the floor being held down by two Marines, who were next door neighbors. Everyone was watching me as I came into the room

The father pointed at the boy, "That's him, I want you to put him in jail until he sobers up!"

I pulled out my note book to get some information. "First I need you to tell me what's going on."

"He came home all drunk and yelled at his mamma and started tearing the house up! I had to get these boys from next door to hold him down. Now I told ya I want him put in jail till he's sober, maybe that will teach him!" The old man replied.

"If you want him put in jail you are going to have to sign a warrant, because I have not seen him do anything wrong."

"What do you mean? He's drunk, and I don't allow that!" The old man yelled.

"Sir, please calm down, all I'm saying is that as of right now all I've seen is that the boy is drunk. Since he is in his own house and is not causing any trouble, I can't arrest him. However, you can sign a warrant and I will put him in jail for you."

"I ain't got no money to sign a warrant!" The old man yelled. He was really upset with me now.

"It does not cost anything to sign a warrant on someone. All you have to do is sign it and I'll put him in jail."

"You mean it won't cost me nothing to put my boy in jail?" The old man asked suspiciously.

"Not a thing." I replied.

"Okay, but what's he got to do for you to arrest him?"

"If he were to get disorderly and cause some trouble in front of me I could arrest him." I said.

The old man grinned and looked at the two Marines, "Let him go, boys!" They let him go and jumped back out of the way. The kid looked around then jumped to his feet and started yelling and swinging his arms.

I said, "That's enough for me. You're under arrest." The kid just screamed louder, so I stepped over to him, blocked his arms and grabbed him in front by the belt with my right hand. I picked him up slightly so he was off balance, at the same time I knocked his feet out from under him. He went down onto his back. I kept a hold of his belt. I twisted it around my hand and then locked my right arm out straight. I put my full weight on my arm pushing my fist into his solar plexus. I out-weighed him by at least one hundred pounds, and he started gasping for breath and his eyes bugged out.

I leaned forward so my mouth was just inches from his ear. I whispered, "If you want to breathe you better listen and do as I say. You understand?" He managed to nod once. "Okay, I'm going to take my weight off of you and you are going to stand up like a man and put your hands behind you so I can handcuff you. Understand?" Another weak nod.

I stood up and the boy got up and put his hands behind his back. I handcuffed him and headed out the front door. The old man was right behind me, "Officer, what's this going to cost me?"

I pointed to my patrol car and told the boy, "Go stand by my car and keep your mouth shut." I turned to the old man and said, "I told you before it does not cost anything to have someone put in jail. I'm going to sign this warrant myself, so you don't have to do anything."

"If I hadn't seen it, I wouldn't have believed one cop could handle my boy by himself," the old man stated.

I took the boy to jail and booked him for breach of the peace. The Magistrate came to the jail the next morning at eight o'clock. I met him there to get my warrant on the boy. The boy's father and mother also showed up. The old man thanked me for putting his son in jail.

The judge talked to the boy and made sure we understood what he was charged with, he then set bond at one hundred dollars. The old man asked what that meant, and the Judge said that was how much they would have to put up to get him out of jail.

At hearing this the old man went ballistic. He shook one of his crutches at me and started screaming, "He said it wouldn't cost nothing. He said it was free to have the boy sober up in jail!!"

The Judge looked at me and I told him, "Judge, he asked me how much it would cost for him to sign a warrant. I told him it would cost him nothing, that it was free. I never told him that the boy would not have to post a bond or pay a fine."

The Magistrate tried to explain it to the old man, but he was hot and didn't want anything to do with either one of us. "I know one thing, I'll never call the Sheriff's Department again! If I need anything I'll call the State Police!" The old man said.

The Judge was getting wound up now too, "It doesn't matter, they will just send a Deputy out anyway because they don't handle criminal matters, only traffic accidents!"

Everybody finally got themselves under control. The old man posted the bond for the boy and they left. As they left, I hoped I had seen the last of them, but as luck would have it, we ran into each other several more times over the next few years. They were never happy to see me pull up to their house no matter how bad things were inside.

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

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