This story was updated at 7:15 p.m. on May 22, 2014.
Acting on instinct, Dylan Rawls carefully cradled the stranger’s bleeding head in a Bethesda parking garage until police and ambulance arrived.
Moments earlier, he had walked upon a heated brawl — a group of several guys pummeling one man. The fight happened during the early hours of April 26, 2013.
Rawls said he didn’t know the people involved and why they were fighting, but he knew it had to stop.
The man getting beat up was lying on the ground.
“I’m pretty sure he wasn’t breathing,” said Rawls, 30, who didn’t want his hometown printed.
So he intervened.
“I didn’t try to fight these guys,” Rawls said. “I just calmed them down. All my attention was on the guy on the ground.”
Today, Rawls is being credited with saving a life.
“If not for the intervention of a good Samaritan who stopped the beating, the victim may have died or, at the very least, suffered even more substantial injuries,” said Ramon Korionoff, a spokesman for the state’s attorney’s office.
Korionoff said the victim made a full recovery.
Last week, Niccolo Manzanero, 33, of Burtonsville, was convicted of attempted second-degree murder for his role in the beating.
Manzanero’s attorney, Samantha Sandler, said this was a case of “imperfect self-defense.”
“The alleged victim was the aggressor,” she said. “He threw the first punch.”
“It was not attempted murder,” said Sandler, an assistant public defender.
According to court filings, Montgomery County police responded at around 1:15 a.m. to a fight inside a parking garage at 4935 St. Elmo Ave., known as the Woodmont Triangle Garage.
Police said in court filings that as many as five men were beating up the man — who is identified only by his initials in court papers — but some left.
Rawls said he remembered turning a corner of the garage and seeing the group beating up the victim. He managed to disperse the group, for the most part.
“There was one guy, who was insistent on getting his last licks in,” Rawls said.
After the fight was over, Manzanero repeatedly stomped on the victim’s head, according to testimony during the trial. Korionoff said the victim needed a metal plate to repair damage to his skull.
Rawls said the victim was face down and not breathing.
”I turned him over. He started breathing, but I don’t think he was conscious. I held his bleeding head,” he said. “That’s when I looked up and saw two girls taping the whole thing. I remember telling them to call the cops.”
Rawls said he waited with the victim until police arrived.
Cellphone footage was later used as evidence.
In video clips The Gazette obtained, Rawls appears to run up to the fight scene, extending his arms toward the men to stop. Most of the group appeared to scatter.
But Sandler said the video clips only show 20 percent of the fight.
“We weren’t saying he wasn’t guilty of anything,” Sandler said of Manzanero. “We don’t think he was trying to kill him.”
Manzanero could face up to 30 years in prison, according to Korionoff.
Sandler said she thought a sentence of 10 to 12 years was more realistic.
“Nothing close to 30,” she said.
Two other men involved in the fight, Michael Velasquez and Jonathan Lima, pleaded guilty to first-degree assault.
Velasquez, 29, of Derwood, was sentenced to 8 years in prison. Lima, 26, whose address is listed in Hyattsville in online court records, was sentenced to 6 years.
Rawls, who didn’t testify at Manzanero’s trial, said he’s having a hard time getting used to the attention. He said he doesn’t deserve it.
“I don’t think I did anything special,” Rawls said. “I did what anyone else would do.”