Security video shows fight that led to sheriff's arrest
ATLANTA - Security video shows what led to a local sheriff being arrested on a battery charge in Florida last year.
App users: View full article here
Walton County Sheriff Joe Chapman was arrested after a pool game dispute in Carrabelle, Florida in May 2016. Yet he did not alert the Peace Officers Standards and Training Council in the required 30-day time period. In fact, the sheriff didn't notify POST until more than a year later, once word about his arrest had started to circulate in Walton County.
As far as the incident in the bar goes, Chapman told the FOX 5 I-Team if he had to do it over again, he'd probably do the same thing.
The security video shows what he did.
Chapman was vacationing in Carrabelle just days after a winning a bruising primary election against longtime Monroe police chief Keith Glass. Chapman says he and two other deputies had just arrived at Harry's Bar, the sheriff playing pool against random challengers. He said typically the challenger has to pay for the game; the winner gets to keep playing.
According to Chapman, William "Dillon" Gray began playing pool against him, then left in the middle of the game after Gray started to lose. Another player took his place. Chapman says Gray eventually reappeared and demanded the return of the money -- approximately $5 -- that he had put up to play. Chapman refused.
The video shows Gray returning with his twin brother, Charles Gray and the sheriff ultimately pushing Charles Gray into a table against the wall. Another Walton County deputy Damien Mercer can be seen grabbing Dillon Gray. The twin brothers quickly left the bar.
Another angle from the security video captures the Gray brothers going to a white van, one retrieving a tire iron and banging on the bar door. Chapman, Mercer and a third deputy emerged and chased the brothers away.
Both Chapman and Mercer would be charged that night with misdemeanor battery -- eventually reduced to disorderly conduct -- and this week, the charges dismissed completely after the two completed a pretrial diversion program.
"They were saying they were going to get their AK... and shoot me," Chapman told me by phone during a vacation to the same Florida city where he was arrested last year. "So that's when I advanced toward them and they ran away. I'm not going to allow someone to verbally threaten me and more than that come at me with weapons to do physical harm to me."
Turns out, the man who originally challenged sheriff Chapman that night would go on to get into far more serious trouble. According to police records, Dillon Gray was arrested in October 2016 for aggravated assault with a deadly weapon. In December, 2016 he was charged with attempted murder after allegedly trying to hit someone with his Chevy Suburban outside a Tallahassee pool hall.
One of the owners of Harry's bar says the sheriff was "100 percent in the right."
"Those two individuals are notorious troublemakers," Sean O'Shea told me. "They give us a bad rap. Ninety-nine percent of the people there will buy you a drink and tell you the best jokes. Our customers don't bite unless you want them to. (The Gray brothers have) caused a lot of trouble for me and other local bars."
Still, it could be Chapman's failure to report that gets him in trouble. Georgia law enforcement officers are required to self-report any arrests to POST within 30 days. Chapman didn't do that until more than a year later.
POST executive director Ken Vance said Chapman will "take his licks just like anyone else" when the case goes before the full POST council, likely in December.
"Why did you keep it a secret?" I asked Chapman.
"I don't know I kept it a secret."
"Well you didn't report it to POST."
"Well, I did but after the time period."
The sheriff told me he didn't know about the 30-day rule and had planned to alert POST once the charges had been dropped.
"It's embarrassing to me," he admitted. "It's embarrassing to my family. It's embarrassing to the Georgia Sheriff's Association. It's embarrassing for anyone associated with me.
Chapman went on to be re-elected last November, winning 92 percent of the vote over a write-in candidate.