Deal suspends Walton Co. sheriff for 30 days after bar incident investigation

Joe Chapman (Credit: AJC file)
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Joe Chapman (Credit: AJC file)

The Walton County sheriff who failed to report his arrest in a Florida bar last year was suspended for 30 days Monday by Gov. Nathan Deal.

Joe Chapman's suspension begins Wednesday, following a month-long investigation by two Georgia sheriffs and state Attorney General Chris Carr. The recommendation was submitted to Deal on Thursday.

Chapman and Maj. Damien Mercer were involved in a bar incident on May 26, 2016, in Carrabelle, near the Gulf Coast. The men were initially charged with battery, which was later changed to disorderly conduct. That charge was dropped July 5.

An officer wrote that surveillance video of the incident showed “Mr. Chapman ... shoved Charles (Gray) in the back causing him to fall onto a table ... and that Maj. Damien Mercer struck (Gray’s twin brother, William) in the left side of the neck with an open hand.”

The sheriff failed to report the arrest and received scrutiny from other peace officers.

Chief Superior Court Judge John M. Ott will appoint someone to act as sheriff during the suspension. The person must meet the qualifications for sheriff to be appointed.

Chapman is one of the most recent high-ranking law enforcement officials facing criticism and punishment after an arrest.

In July, DeKalb County Sheriff Jeff Mann was suspended for 40 days after an investigation into his May 6 arrest for allegedly exposing himself at Piedmont Park. Mann pleaded guilty to obstruction charges on July 27 and is banished from Atlanta parks for six months. He also paid a $2,000 fine and was ordered to serve 80 hours of community service.

Earlier this month, Georgia State University police Chief Joseph Spillane returned to work following a 20-day suspension after he was arrested and accused of DUI.

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