Two Volunteer students charged with assault at Battle of Hawkins County football game

Jeff Bobo • Sep 14, 2018 at 7:00 PM

CHURCH HILL — The Battle of Hawkins County spilled over into the grandstands Thursday night after a Volunteer High School student allegedly struck at least one visiting Cherokee fan with a wooden flagpole.

The Battle of Hawkins County is the annual rivalry football game between Volunteer and Cherokee, and it’s always an emotionally charged event.

When officers arrested the student involved in the flagpole incident, the Volunteer student section got riled up.

In the ensuing chaos, another student was arrested after allegedly being ejected for arguing with police and then refusing to leave. There was also an allegation that the second student spat on a deputy.

Evan Mays, who is a senior at Volunteer and a student representative to the Hawkins County Board of Education, told the Times News Friday he believes the Hawkins County Sheriff’s Office overreacted during the second arrest.

Mays was seated where the second arrest took place and said he witnessed the entire incident.

What is not in dispute is how the first arrest occurred.

What caused the first arrest?

Late in the game, a 17-year-old Volunteer student reportedly took the large blue “V” banner hanging on a wooden pole and was waving it over the heads of some Cherokee students in the visitor student section.

When Cherokee students tried to grab the banner and pull it down, the Volunteer student allegedly struck at least one of them with the pole.

No serious injuries were reported, but that Volunteer student was arrested and charged with aggravated assault, a Class C felony.

HCSO Chief Deputy Tony Allen told the times News Friday that both arrests remain under investigation and that more information might be available Monday.

Allen did state, however, that the second Volunteer student who was arrested was “very disruptive and refused any order whatsoever. He refused all orders from the police officers, and it kept going downhill from there on the part of the student.”

That second 17-year-old was charged with assault on an officer, resisting arrest and criminal trespassing. The trespassing charge pertained to his refusal to leave the stadium after being ejected, Allen said.

“After numerous, numerous orders to leave the ballgame, he refused, by force, to leave,” Allen said. “He actually held on to something.”

From the perspective of another student

Mays told the Times News Friday he believes police handled the first arrest properly.

“He (the first student) went over there knowing he was going to get in trouble, and the police got him down, they handcuffed him, and that was it,” Mays said. “After that happened, the student section was pretty riled up. I’m not exactly sure what (the second student) said specifically. ... From what I can tell he was saying something to one of the police officers. But everyone was. Everyone in the student section was screaming at the top of their lungs, saying very vulgar things, so I’m not sure what he did to be singled out.”

Mays added, “It was a female police officer who came up to (the second student) and said, ‘You're f---ing out of here.’ I was two people away from (the second student) so I could hear the whole thing. He said something back to her, and she said, ‘I don’t give a s---. You’re out.’ And he said something to the effect that he wasn’t leaving.”

Mays said he believes the police response to the second student was “beyond over the top.”

“She decides to elbow her way through the student section, and she gets in his face and starts cussing him out and telling him he’s going to leave. Granted, he was being disrespectful back to her. He was like, ‘I just want to know why my friend was put in a choke hold. I just want to know why I’m getting kicked out.’ He told me (later) it didn’t seem like she could hear him, so he said it louder, and they’re like inches away from each other. And she said, ‘If you spit in my face one more time, I’m putting you under arrest.’ ”

Mays said he didn’t see the second student intentionally spit on the deputy, but the way he was screaming at her, there might have been some spittle involved.

“The next thing that happened is about four Hawkins County sheriff’s deputies hopped the railing and tackled him. Four. He is a 17-year-old anemic high school student, probably about 100 pounds, and it took four officers to take him down.”

Mays said he spoke to the second student later, who told him he was trying to leave, but he felt sick and tried to sit down, which the deputies mistook for resistance.

“The young man should have complied”

Sheriff Ronnie Lawson told the Times News Friday he doesn’t believe his officers’ response in the second arrest was excessive.

“The young man should have complied with officers’ instructions and left the stadium,” Lawson said. “Then the situation would never have happened.”