Craig Reaves saw the fight as soon as he pulled his truck into the parking lot of Sea Eagle Market after meeting with a Hilton Head Island chef in December.
The Beaufort business had only recently opened at its new location on Boundary Street. Cars filled the parking lot.
In the back of the lot near where the fresh catches are unloaded, three men fought. Reaves slammed his car into park and jumped out.
“This all happened within seconds,” Reaves said of the Dec. 7 incident. “I had to decipher pretty quickly who is the good guy and who is the bad guy here. One was dressed in khakis and a button-up (shirt), and the other two guys are whaling on him.”
Two teenagers were attacking a Beaufort County Sheriff’s Office deputy. The teens had run from deputies after being sought for questioning at a nearby hotel.
Reaves knew none of that back story as he approached the melee in the parking lot.
One of the teenagers ran with the deputy’s vest, Reaves said, so the big, bearded fisherman grabbed the other teen struggling with the deputy. When the first juvenile reappeared, Reaves grabbed him in a headlock and dropped to the asphalt as Sheriff’s Office patrol cars screamed into the parking lot.
“Whooosh,” Sea Eagle employee Tommy Jaskiewicz said, recalling the cars pouring in. “It must have been 50 cops. It probably wasn’t, but it felt that way.”
The juveniles, ages 14 and 15, were eventually charged with multiple counts of assault and battery on a police officer and resisting arrest. They continued struggling with deputies and cursing as they were arrested and wrestled into patrol cars, Reaves said.
The pair had fought investigators and attempted to push deputies off a second-floor balcony of Econo Lodge on Boundary Street after being sought for questioning related to an ongoing investigation, a Sheriff’s Office news release said. Sheriff’s Office spokesman Capt. Bob Bromage declined to offer details of the investigation Thursday.
The Sheriff’s Office recently reached out to Reaves to ask if he would be comfortable with public recognition for his role. The department issued a news release praising Reaves this week for saving a Sheriff’s Office lieutenant from serious injury.
“We certainly appreciate his call to action,” Bromage said.
Reaves said he wasn’t sure how to process the attention. He said he hesitated upon first seeing the fight, not wanting to interfere with law enforcement.
But the deputy had called for help. The officer was missing a shoe in addition to the vest, Jaskiewicz said.
“It was one of those spur-of-the-moment things,” Reaves said. “I was glad I was in the right place at the right time.”