After I had been on the Sheriff's Department for about three years there was a large reorganization. This reorganization resulted in four of us being promoted to the rank of corporal. It just happened that all four of us were working on the same shift at the time. We knew that within a week or so we would all be split up to different shifts, so we decided that we would all do at least one more thing together.
What we decided to do was go out Saturday night with the local Alcohol Beverage Control agent and raid bars. On Saturday nights all bars were to close by midnight.
On Saturday at midnight we all met at the office in Beaufort. We decided to go to Hilton Head Island because we had not shut them down in a while and there are a lot of bars there. We were sure we would find some open after hours.
We spent about two hours on Hilton Head spreading hate and discontent among the bar owners. We were not trying to put anyone in jail, we just wanted them to know that we meant to enforce the law. The A. B. C. agent would write the owner a ticket and we would make everyone leave.
Besides the A. B. C. agent and we four corporals, we had brought about five other deputies. We were closing clubs that had fifty to seventy people in them. There was a very real danger in those kinds of numbers, but that is also what made it exciting. What we did was, put one man at the door in plain view with a riot shotgun, the rest of us went through the door and quickly spread out so we could cover as much area as possible. The A. B. C. agent and two of the corporals would head for the bar area and get with the owner. Another one of us would shut off the music and turn on all of the lights.
The idea was to do all of this as quickly as possible. When it was done right, we very seldom had any trouble with the crowd. Surprise was on our side and because there seemed to be officers everywhere, it seemed as if there were more of us than there really were.
The last club we hit before leaving the Island was larger then the rest. There were well over a hundred people inside. We hit it the same way as the others. We no more then got inside when a man bolted for the door. The Deputy with the shotgun stopped him. Two of us corporals went over to see what the problem was. When we got there the man was very upset, he said he needed to talk to whoever was in charge. We told him we were in charge.
As he pulled a black wallet from his shirt pocket he said, "Please officers, please let me go! I swear I didn't know it was illegal to be in a bar on Sunday!" We both looked at the wallet he had opened in front of us. It was his identification. He was a city police officer from Atlanta, Georgia, where it was not illegal to operate a bar on Sunday. "I'll get fired if my Chief hears about this! If you let me get to my car I won't stop until I get to Atlanta and I'll never come back to South Carolina!"
We calmed him down and told him no one was going to go to jail, and he could leave if he wanted to. He headed for his car. We asked him if he had been with anyone. He said yes, two girls and a man, so we told him he could wait on them if he wanted to, but he said they could walk home. He said they were from South Carolina so they had to know this had been illegal. If they didn't care if he got in trouble then he didn't care if they walked home.
We got the club emptied without anymore trouble and decided to head back to Beaufort since we could not find any more clubs open.
On the way back to Beaufort, which is about 35 miles away, the Deputy working the area we were going through called us on the radio and asked us to meet him along the way.
We stopped and talked to him. He told us that there was a club just down a side road about a half mile and it was going full blast.
The road we were on runs right along the county line. At some places it is the county line and at others both sides of the road are Beaufort county, at still other places both sides are Jasper county. The club in question was in Jasper county, the road which ran in front of it sat right on the county line. We all said we wished it were in Beaufort county so we could hit it. The A. B. C. agent, who is a state officer, works about four counties including Beaufort and Jasper. He told us that if we wanted to we could hit it anyway. After all they knew they shouldn't be open so they were not too likely to say too much about us being out of our county. Besides, if anybody did say anything he would say that we were just there to back him up.
We talked it over and that sounded good to us so off we went. We hit the club the same way we had been doing. This time I went with the A. B. C. agent. We were talking to the owner when another of the corporals came up looking very pale and said, "Come on let's get out of here now!!"
"Why? What's wrong?" I asked. I hadn't seen any trouble.
"I'll explain later, right now we've got to get out of here, fast!!" We had all worked together long enough to know that we had to trust each other, so we all just dropped what we were doing and left. We got into our cars and drove about a mile down the road and then stopped.
When we got out of the cars, we all asked what had happened. Still slightly pale but about to laugh, the man explained, "You are not going to believe this, but we just raided a club in the wrong county with the Sheriff sitting in it drunk!"
Somebody said, "No way, the Sheriff wouldn't be caught dead in there." It was a black club and our Sheriff was white, born and raised in Alabama.
"No stupid, not our Sheriff, the Sheriff of Jasper county!!" Oh great, the Sheriff of Jasper county was black, that was all we needed. We all vowed silence and headed back to Beaufort.
Almost a week passed and no one said anything about the incident. We all thought we had gotten away with it.
The next Friday the Sheriff called a meeting of all the supervisors to finish the reorganization of the department. When we got to the meeting the Sheriff cornered all four of us and said, "I promoted all four of you and not one of you knows where the heck Beaufort county ends!!" We all just stood there as he continued, "The Jasper county Sheriff told me I should buy maps for all of you so you would know where Jasper county is. I told him I'd make sure you knew from now on, so that better be the last time something like this happens!"
It never happened again and the Sheriff never said anything else about it.
by R.L. Dettwiler