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Federal agents investigate after fisherman rescued from ocean off Charleston's coast

Coast Guard

The Coast Guard is investigating after an injured fisherman was rescued 70 miles off the coast of Charleston last week following a reported fight at sea. 

The man's plight appeared to be linked to a fishing vessel that later became the site of a Sept. 16 disturbance that caused Mount Pleasant police to close down areas around Wando Shrimp Co., on Shem Creek. 

A 24-year-old man was rescued at 4:40 a.m. Sept. 15 after he was found adrift in the Atlantic Ocean almost 70 miles from Charleston, Coast Guard Petty Officer 3rd Class Vincent Moreno said.

The man received medical care for suspected head injuries, Moreno said. 

A Mount Pleasant police report shows the man got into a dispute later that day with a boat captain at Wando Shrimp over a firearm. 

Police were dispatched to the dock around 1 p.m. for reports that the man was trying to retrieve his firearm from the captain's fishing boat, the report states.

The man told an officer he had just left the hospital where he was taken after being rescued from the ocean, and he wanted his gun.

The boat's captain confirmed he had the gun but told the officer that the man threatened him and his first mate with it while they were at sea. They held the man down and called the Coast Guard, the captain said in the report, but the man jumped overboard before authorities got there. 

The officer called a sergeant from the Coast Guard, who asked that the gun be held as evidence while they investigated the claims, the report states. 

Mount Pleasant police were dispatched to the same boat the next day for a report the captain was "screaming" while sitting inside it. Officers knew from the Sept. 15 encounter the captain had at least one gun on the ship, according to a police report, so they established a perimeter and called for him to exit the vessel. 

The captain instead ducked out of sight, the report states. The department's SWAT team was called to the location and eventually boarded the vessel, where they found the captain asleep.

Investigators determined the captain's erratic behavior was caused by a combination of medications and sleep deprivation, the report state. He was taken to the hospital and no charges were filed. Two handguns, a pellet rifle and shotgun were found in the boat. 

Moreno said Sept. 19 federal agents were investigating how the man ended up in the water, and no arrests had been made in the case.

The boat's captain was reached by telephone Sept. 16. He said he remained in the hospital and deferred on answering questions about the incident. Further attempts to reach him have been unsuccessful. 

Reach Steve Garrison at 843-607-1052. Follow him on Twitter @SteveGarrisonDT.