Walton County

Local sheriff headed to court on charges after bar fight

WALTON COUNTY, Ga. — Channel 2 Action News has learned that a local sheriff is headed to court on charges after a bar fight.

The fight happened in Carabelle, Florida, near St. George Island last year, but state authorities may not have been notified until recently.

The executive director of POST, the council that trains and certifies Georgia peace officers, told Channel 2’s Tony Thomas on Monday that his investigators are looking into the case involving Walton County Sheriff Joe Chapman.

Chapman told Thomas he's in Florida right now, and the 13-month-old disorderly conduct case will be dismissed on Wednesday.

The bar fight had been kept quiet until this weekend.

Records show Chapman and a major from his department were charged with battery, which was later changed to disorderly conduct, after what was basically a bar fight in May 2016.

A Carabelle police officer wrote that surveillance video of the incident, which was over money on a pool table, showed “Mr. Chapman … shoved Charles (a victim) in the back causing him to fall onto a table … and that Maj. Damien Mercer struck him (the victim's brother) in the left side of the neck with an open hand."


Chapman says the brothers then went outside and assaulted him and Mercer with a crowbar.

“We don't know what else he could've done,” Chapman said.

The sheriff told Thomas he is embarrassed by what happened, but he wouldn't have handled the situation any differently.

Court records so far only show Chapman and Mercer are due back in court on Thursday and then again on Friday for arraignments.

Chapman told Thomas he is back in the area at his vacation home and will head to the courthouse when it opens after the holiday.

The head of POST said by phone he did not have the records in front of him to say when the incident was reported to the agency.

When Thomas called the POST offices earlier in the day, a staff person told him, at that point, they had no record of the incident at all.

Arrests of any kind are to be self-reported by officers to the agency, under Georgia law.