“Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.” -John 15:13
SFC Jonathon Prins and SSG Charles Allen Judge, Jr. were not in uniform Saturday night. They were not on duty, and no one ordered them to risk their lives. They simply acted to do what they knew was right, moving without hesitation to risk their lives for a stranger. They died, but she lived. Those who knew them say they wouldn’t have had it any other way.
“He was a great man and knowing him, if he knew what the outcome was going to be, he would have done the same thing,” Judge’s brother-in-law, Jon Adams, said Sunday. A soldier who served beside Prins offered almost the same words about him.
Prins and Judge were at the Frayed Knot Bar & Grill in Chapin just before midnight Saturday. Joseph Elijah Mills, 25, of Little Mountain, allegedly began arguing with a woman and another man outside the bar. Multiple witnesses said Mills assaulted the woman, slamming her into a stair railing, then pulled out a gun.
Prins and Judge moved without hesitation when they saw the woman assaulted, according to witnesses. As they moved, Mills allegedly fired into the air, and the two men attempted to get to him and disarm him. Mills shot both Prins and Judge, killing them, again according to witnesses, then ran away from the scene.
Prins was a soldier, currently posted as a drill sergeant at Fort Jackson, training other soldiers. He was deployed twice to Afghanistan and once to Iraq. His brother in arms, Sgt. Brandon Baldwin, spoke Sunday night about his fallen comrade.
“SFC Prins was a warrior built and forged to his solid state through war. He and I served 8 years together in the 2/327th Infantry Battalion. Both currently Drill Sergeants out of Fort Jackson, we have deployed three different times: once to Iraq, twice to Afghanistan. 2/327 is named the No Slack BN. The No Slack Battalion has seen the fiercest fighting Afghanistan has ever seen. There is actually a movie out about the BNs deployment called The Hornets Nest. SFC Prins was apart of the Strong Eagle 3 mission that the movie is filmed from. SFC Prins had the instinct to protect the weak instilled into him over the last 10 years of service. The way SFC Prins was taken from us, is a testament to his bravery and his selfless service. The No Slack family is still in a state of disbelief. Just yesterday his wife Roxanne was just at our baby shower. Still doesn’t feel real. I knew SFC Prins would go out a hero.”
Judge was also a soldier and a teacher, an engineer instructor with the South Carolina National Guard at the McCrady Training Center in Eastover and an Iraq veteran. The 218TH Leadership Regiment 1ST BN Engineers posted a photo of him on Facebook Sunday night, writing “It is with a heavy heart we say goodbye to SSG Charles A Judge JR. You will be truly missed by so many!! RIP Judge, see you on the other side brother!”
His Commander at the 218th Regiment Leadership Command at the McCrady Training Center, U.S. Army Col. Renita Berry, commander 218th Regiment (Leadership), shared the following statement. “On behalf of the Soldiers, staff and families of the 218th Regiment, we are shocked and saddened by the loss of Staff. Sgt Judge. He was an outstanding instructor who served with great dedication and enthusiasm and demonstrated unwavering commitment to his peers, his students and this organization every day. He will be missed tremendously.”
A friend and comrade who asked not to be named offered more memories of Judge. “He served as a combat engineer in Iraq. Left behind a son and daughter. He volunteered countless hours to helping homeless veterans through Operation Stand Down. He cared about people and did whatever he could to help out whenever he could. Even with the long hours that we work as instructors, Judge would leave McCrady to head to the Upstate for a meeting with the volunteers or spend time with his children. He will be sorely missed around the community.”
Frequent customers described the Frayed Knot as a locally owned and community friendly place. It sits on the edge of Lake Murray near Dreher Island, and Prins and Judge certainly did not go there expecting to run into trouble, or expecting to be asked to give their lives. When the moment came, however, they moved. The life of a stranger was more important to them than their own lives.
Prins and Judge leave behind five children between them. The Frayed Knot joined with family and friends of the heroes Friday for a boat parade and fundraiser. Another fundraiser is being planned in their honor, and Midlands Anchor will supply details as soon as they are finalized. Charles Judge was 40 years old. Jonathon Prins was 29. The woman they gave their lives to save was not seriously injured. They died as they lived, as heroes and as victors.
Lexington County Sheriff’s deputies arrested Mills Sunday afternoon. He is charged with two counts of murder.