Adam Murphy with CBS46 News reported on July 12 that the Governor has established a review panel to investigate Walton County Sheriff Joe Chapman and his involvement in a bar fight in Florida in May 2016. Gov. Nathan Deal did this through an executive order, signed on July 12.
A bar fight in Florida following his successful primary win last year continues to haunt Walton County Sheriff Joe Chapman. He has been on vacation in Carrabelle, Fla., the city where the incident took place for the past week, but he hasn’t had much time to relax. He has been fielding calls from media since the information leaked out a little more than a week ago.
According to the Incident Report from Franklin County, the incident took place on May 26 at Harry’s Bar in Carrabelle. An altercation broke out between Chapman and WCSO Major Damien Mercer and other customers at the bar resulting in the arrest of Mercer and Chapman. According to the report, the altercation began following a dispute between Chapman and William Dillon Gray, 28, over money that had been put up for a game of pool. The dispute escalated when Chapman pushed his twin brother, Charles Denium Gray.
“I had put money on the table and he wanted to take the money,” Chapman said. “Yes, I pushed him, but I never hit anybody. After that one of the guys approached with a crowbar and that was when the others got involved.”
Video surveillance pulled from the incident shows the initial altercation in the bar, with the twin brothers exiting and then coming back after one of them retrieved what was reported as a crowbar from a vehicle. At that time Chapman, Mercer and another deputy from WCSO can be seen following them out with the twin brothers making a quick exit. Chapman and Mercer were arrested and initially charged with midemeanor battery. Those charges were then reduced by the court to disorderly conduct and were dismissed this week after Mercer and Chapment completed a six-month pre-trial diversion program.
Since this all surfaced, however, the Gray twins also have been getting attention from the media, and Charles Gray said his grandparents were not happy about it. He wanted his side of the story told.
“We were made to sound like gansters and that’s not true. We are not trouble makers. It was just a misunderstanding,” Gray said. “We did not know that they were sheriff’s deputies.”
He went on to say that they work in heating and air and often help people out when they can’t pay their bills. He said his family is well known in the area and they are good people. The Gray twins, however, have had their own legal troubles since the incident at Harry’ Bar, especially William Dillon Gray who, according to records at the Leon County Court in Tallahassee, was arrested in October 2016 for aggravated assault with a deadly weapon for pulling a knife during a fight. He was out of $10,000 bond on that charge when he was again picked up in December 2016 and charged with attempted murder. In that instance, he allegedly hit someone with his Chevy Suburban outside a Tallahassee pool hall when the man tried to break up another fight he was involved in. His twin brother and wife were reported to be with him at that time, but were not charged. Charles Gray declined to say whether or not his brother is still in jail.
Chapman said that Charles Gray had offered to drop the charges if he agreed to pay $1,000, but Charles Gray said that was not the case. “We didn’t want to ruin their lives or anything.”
However, Charles Gray now says he was not happy about the charges being dismissed and had intended to be in court to voice his objection. It is not clear whether or not he tried to raise the objection, but court records reflect that the charges were dismissed this week.
Chapman released a statement saying that he is embarrassed by the whole incident and promised to continue to serve the community to the best of his ability. But even with the charges dismissed, he is not out of the woods yet. The Georgia Sheriff’s Association has asked Gov. Nathan Deal to review the incident. The governor’s decision has not yet been announced. Also, Georgia law enforcement officers are required to report any arrests to the Peace Officers Standards and Training board within 30 days and Chapman didn’t do that until recently. POST Director Ken Vance said it has now been reported by Chapman and the review will go forward as normal.
“People holding a peace officers certification are required to report. He did report the incident in Florida, just not right after it happened,” Vance said. “POST will do an investigation into the event and make a recommendation. It will then go before the full council, probably in December, and a decision on sanctions will be made. We’re treating it just like any other case and we have some 1,400 of them a year.”
Vance said the sanctions could be anything from nothing, to a public reprimand, probation, suspension or a full revokation of POST certification.