Fight or Flight? : Last Year's Hero Learns His Lesson After Nearly Losing Left Ear in Brawl

Times Staff Writer

Carl (Chuck) Edwards, who last year won a national heroism award for aiding a female stabbing victim, figures he now will think twice before becoming involved in other folks' feuds.

Edwards, 33, nearly lost his left ear last month when he was coaxed into a fight with a Buena Park man who outweighed him by at least 70 pounds.

Edwards, a Buena Park brick mason, was honored twice for saving a woman who was being stabbed at a Stanton supermarket parking lot on Nov. 18, 1983.

The Orange County Board of Supervisors gave Edwards the Medal of Valor. Later, he received the national Andrew Carnegie Medal for Heroism and $2,500.

But this time, Edwards wasn't so fortunate.

He became involved in a vicious fight with a man he claims had a feud with a friend of his. The incident took place on May 17.

According to Edwards, he and his unidentified friend were inspecting a house he rents out when a man identified by Buena Park police as Paul de Santiago approached them and wanted to fight Edwards' friend.

"He wanted a confrontation and we were willing to oblige him, but then he (de Santiago) decided to leave," Edwards said in an interview Friday.

Later that day, Edwards was driving by de Santiago's home when someone threw a board in front of his truck, forcing him to stop. When Edwards stepped out of the truck, he said de Santiago attacked him and the two engaged in a five-minute fight in which several heavy blows were exchanged.

A witness stopped the fight, but de Santiago allegedly attacked Edwards again, grabbing him in a headlock and biting his ear.

"The guy hit me in the face on the side," Edwards said. "He began chewing on my ear and I could feel the tearing of the flesh and cartilage. I punched him the face and he let go."

Edwards said de Santiago's wife then gave her husband a pool cue, which he broke on Edwards arm.

Edwards said he spent several hours at Anaheim General Hospital without treatment before he went to Fountain Valley Community Hospital, where his dangling left ear was stitched together and reconstructed by a plastic surgeon. He spent a week recovering in the hospital.

"I had to stay in the hospital to prevent infection because of the seriousness of a human bite," Edwards said.

His left ear is now badly scarred, but Edwards said he is not self-conscious about the look of the reconstructed ear.

Meanwhile, Buena Park Police Officer Terry Branum said that de Santiago, who stands 5 feet, 10 inches tall and weighs about 250 pounds, will be charged with mayhem.

Edwards, who is 5-foot-7 and weighs 180 pounds, said he would now be more careful about meddling in other people's affairs, although he would not back down from a fight.

"I think I've learned my lesson. I'm going to think more before I act," he said. "It was not that I was trying to be a hero either time. The first time, the poor woman was being beaten and nobody was helping her.

"The second time, I should have driven on. I realize that now."

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