CHAPMANVILLE — Everyone contacted agrees that he is “a great student and a great person.” Most even know that the 16-year-old shown in a photograph is planning to be a police officer.
The problem is: he isn’t one yet.
In fact, the 16-year-old shown with Logan head coach Mark Hartcher in the photo is actually a junior at Chapmanville Regional High School.
Neither the photographer, Paul Adkins of The Logan Banner, nor any other reporter recognized that the man was not a deputy. In fact, he looks much older than the age reported.
But there seems no question, that the boy (the name is being withheld because he is a juvenile) was dressed to play the part of a policeman at the Scott-Logan basketball game in the Nationwide Insurance Basketball Classic held last week at CRHS.
It was after that game that Hatcher was charged by the Chapmanville Police Department with assault and battery on a police officer.
Although the arrest records report that Hatcher is accused of pushing a legitimate Chapmanville policeman, news of the young man’s role in the scuffle that prompted the police response spread rapidly Thursday afternoon.
During a rebound battle following a hotly contested game between the Corridor G rivals, two opposing players became entangled. That’s when other members of both teams rushed in and a melee followed. Coaches from both teams sprinted to the floor at about the same time that the law enforcement officers on duty in the gym responded. The officers came from the Logan County Sheriff’s Department as well as the town of Chapmanville.
A video of the scene shows Hatcher apparently reaching toward one of his players while a Chapmanville police officer is crouched beside the pair who are still fighting. It is then that Hatcher apparently pushes the policeman, causing him to fall backward.
It appears that several officers then grabbed for Hatcher, one apparently the 16-year-old.
CRHS Principal Kathy Moore said she is aware of the situation.
“He’s a great student and a fantastic person,” she said. “Why he was out on the floor in what looked like a police uniform is beyond me.”
Moore confirmed that the tournament director, George Barker, had requested officers from both the town and county “for something like this (the Hatcher altercation).”
Although a county commissioner said he knew the 16-year-old, who played football last year for CRHS, he said he had been told the lad is a “junior deputy in the sheriff’s department.” Others, including Moore, used the same terminology.
But that cannot be true, according to Logan Chief Deputy M. Mayes.
“We don’t even have a junior deputy program,” the chief deputy said. “I sure don’t know what was going on there.”
Mayes said the youth did work for the Logan County Sheriff’s Department last summer but was not still working when he (Mayes) came to his position in August.
“He did summer work crew stuff, like maintenance,” said the chief.
Mayes denied a rumor that the youngster had been riding with deputies on regular patrols.
“That just isn’t true,” he said.
The chief also reacted to eyewitness reports that the boy was wearing a sheriff’s department uniform at the game.
“No he did not have on a deputy’s uniform,” the chief said. “He had on a black shirt that is similar to a deputy’s uniform. He did not have a badge on it.
Despite the fact that Mayes said the boy purchased the shirt himself, he said one of his deputies informed the student not to wear it again at a public event. That admonition came before the melee, Mayes said.
“It did look too much like a sheriff’s department shirt,” he conceded.
Mayes said the evening of the brawl was the first time deputies had ever seen the student wearing that shirt.
Mayes defended all the law enforcement officers from Saturday night.
“They went out to break up a fight,” he said. “And they did. They didn’t have time to stand around trying to figure out who everybody on the floor was.”
Sheriff Sonja Porter was unavailable for comment at presstime.