The police chief lashed out at an Alabama high school football game after a player claimed the coach used racial slurs

Oneonta Police Chief Charles Clifton said he would pursue criminal charges against a man he said punched him in the face after a football game at the center on Friday night.

Clifton, 51 and a 30-year law enforcement veteran, said the ordeal happened at the end of the 4A semifinal game between Oneonta and Cherokee County high schools.

Oneonta lost the game 42-21.

Near the end of the game, Clifton said, a play resulted in both teams receiving a penalty for unsportsmanlike conduct. It started with a Oneonta player challenging the referee’s decision.

Afterward, he said, one of the Cherokee County players claimed he was called a racial slur by an Oneonta coach.

“We’ve talked to almost every individual in our video that we can see at length, and I’ll just tell you, I’m 100 percent sure the coaches didn’t say that,” Clifton said.

“If he said that, one of the players or parents would have called them because there was a crowd of people at the fence line.”

As the parents waited for the Oneonta team to load up and leave, Clifton was alerted by another parent that one of his school resource officers – Keith Roddam – needed help.

“He was about 100 feet away and surrounded by people pushing him around,” Clifton said.

The chief said he ran to help Roddam.

By that point, Clifton said, the Cherokee County player’s uncle, who claimed he was a racially slurful title, had “pushed out of the way” the school’s resource officer and was on his way to the Oneonta coaches.

The uncle, Clifton said, looked drunk and smelled of alcohol.

“I got between him and the coaches and said, ‘You’re under arrest,'” Clifton said.

At that point, the uncle punched Clifton in the jaw, Clifton said.

“It almost blew my mind,” Clifton said.

The suspect, Clifton said, was the husband of a Cherokee County sheriff’s officer. Cherokee County lawmakers responded but did not arrest the man, Clifton said.

Clifton said he was unable to obtain warrants through Cherokee County and said the sheriff’s office called in SBI to conduct the investigation.

Cherokee County Sheriff Jeff Shaver said he could not comment at this time.

The Alabama High School Athletic Association directed questions to the principals of the two schools.

Cherokee County school officials could not be immediately reached for comment.

“If that word was said, I condemn it 100 percent,” Clifton said. But even black coaches told police no racial slur was used, Clifton said.

“If someone had said that loud enough, I would have heard it,” Clifton said.

Clifton said there were multiple videos of the incident.

Clifton said he had to go to the emergency room to get a CT scan. He is distraught about the whole affair.

Clifton said he had known the man who hit him for many years.

“I’m not mad at him, but I want him to know the seriousness of his actions and take the consequences,” he said.

“I am absolutely beyond words at how they don’t immediately allow warrants to be issued on this matter and basically say it’s okay to smack a cop in the face.”

The boss said he will meet with the center’s police on Tuesday to try to press charges through that agency.

“I’m so put off by it. I couldn’t sleep,” Clifton said.

“I’ve been injured all weekend. I’m 51 years old and I don’t deserve to be slapped in the face for something I had nothing to do with other than trying to keep him away from our coaches.

“I don’t even have the words to describe how a brother or sister in law enforcement can just leave you up in the air like that,” he said.

Clifton posted this on Facebook about the incident:

“I want to thank the Oneonta community for all of your calls, thoughts, and well wishes to my department and I after Friday night’s football game in Cherokee County. Myself and SRO Roddam were attacked by a drunk fan after the football game. The suspect wanted to attack the OHS football coaches over something allegedly said to a Cherokee County High School football player. Everyone, including the suspect, was safe and no one suffered life-threatening injuries, which is always the goal. Although the fan was not immediately arrested, sometimes caution is better than escalating a situation. We are pursuing criminal charges against the suspect and awaiting direction from the Cherokee County Attorney’s Office. I believe the Cherokee County justice system will do the right thing on this matter.

For the parents and fans who watched this altercation, I want you to take this as a teaching moment. I appreciate the courtesy here in Blount County, Alabama. I appreciate and admire the class and dignity you all display on a daily basis. No one should ever take matters into their own hands, nor should anyone attend a sporting event while intoxicated.

Finally, I would like to say this to our student-athletes. As always, you are my heroes. I am incredibly proud of each and every one of you. They all display the highest level of dignity and class, which will carry you further in life than being undisciplined and combative. I am very proud of your football season. It was a disappointing ending, but being a part of you and being included in this community is something my family appreciates. Chin up Skins!”

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