Man dead, 2 deputies injured after fight on Highway 78 near Ladson fairgrounds

One person is dead and two Charleston County deputies are being treated for injuries at an area hospital after an altercation in Highway 78 Sunday afternoon. (Andy Paras)

A man is dead and two Charleston County Sheriff's deputies are being treated for head injuries after officials say they were beaten with one of their own batons during a fight on U.S. Highway 78 Sunday.

Sheriff's Maj. Eric Watson said the two deputies responded to U.S. Highway 78 and Pinewood Drive around 4 p.m. because a man was walking barefoot in the roadway and impeding traffic. Watson said the deputies approached and at some point the man took one of their batons and struck them both in the head.

At least one of the deputies deployed a Taser, Watson said, adding it's not clear if the Taser was effective. No shots were fired, he said.

The deputies who were involved have been identified as Deputy Robert Bittner and Deputy Levi Reiter. Bittner has been with the CCSO since Feb. 2001 and Reiter since June, 2001.

Both deputies were released from the hospital late Sunday night after being treated for their injuries and are both recovering at home.

The deputies have been placed on administrative leave with pay. The investigation and all video evidence has been turned over to the State Law Enforcement Division, which is customary.

With the help of 6-10 bystanders, the man was brought down and taken into custody. Others captured the fight on video and turned that video over to authorities.

Michael White said he and his wife were driving along 78 when they saw the man battling with deputies, both of whom were bleeding.

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"We saw two officers being tackled down over there the assailant was very combative at the point where me and three or four other people decided to join in and get the assailant down," White said. "About this time the guy was extremely combative, reaching for weapons and anything else. We all took the necessary measures to make sure the officers were safe."

White just returned from a four-year deployment. His wife, an EMT, helped treat one of the deputies.

"She tried to patch one of the guys up. Unfortunately he was pretty badly gashed," he said. "When you see an officer help them, they help you in everyday situations. I'm not going to sit by and watch one of our fellow officers get harmed."

The man was transported to Trident Medical Center where he later died, Watson said.

Watson said the deputies had extensive injuries to their heads and bodies after the altercation and were treated at Medical University Hospital. They are in fair condition, he said.

It's unclear if any of the bystanders who helped the deputies subdue the man were also injured. The coroner's office has not released the man's identity.

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