A verbal confrontation between female fans at last week’s regional semi-final basketball game at the Nest is what gave rise to a violent incident between law enforcement and three Altha fans, according to reports filed with the Franklin County Sheriff’s Office.
After being subdued outside by deputies following an incident in the gym lobby in the waning seconds of the game between the Franklin County Seahawks and Altha Wildcats, William R. Sims, 48, of Altha, was arrested for two counts of battery on a law enforcement officer, battery on a school employee, resisting arrest without violence and disrupting a school function.
After being taken to jail, he was transported to Weems Memorial Hospital where he received stitches to his scalp above his right eye, according to Franklin County Sheriff A.J. Smith.
The sheriff said two others involved in the incident turned themselves into Franklin County authorities Tuesday morning. Warrants were issued Friday for Steve Mears, for two counts of battery on a law enforcement officer, interfering with a school function and battery on a school employee, and for Amanda Sims, 36, for interfering with a school function and resisting arrest without violence.
The incident took place in the last minute of the game, which Franklin County won 52-40 to advance to Tuesday’s regional title game in Jackson County versus Malone.
The probable cause affidavit said that about 8:30 p.m. “two or three females’” were in a verbal altercation near the entrance doors to the basketball court, when Lt. Ryan Sandoval and Anthony Croom, the school district’s safety officer, asked Amanda Sims to leave.
The names of the two other officers involved were redacted from the affidavit, although Superintendent Steve Lanier has said Capt. Gary Martina and school resource officer Allen Ham were escorting the individuals from the game.
As she was led out Amanda Sims snatched her hand away and voiced a string of profanities, wrote one of the officers, yelling that they were “worthless pigs, sorry motherf****ers, that we can’t even do our f***ing jobs.”
In subsequent comments on Facebook, Altha fans indicated they felt the team’s cheerleaders had been verbally threatened, and that they feared for their safety. One man said the visiting team’s fans felt provoked by one man who paraded on the sidelines with coat hangars, part of an old Apalachicola taunt that the other team should “hang it up.”
The Franklin County officer, who was on-duty and in uniform, and based on other references in the affidavit appears to be Ham, said he secured Amanda Sims by both arms “and had full intention of arresting her but I then felt someone strike me in my right kidney area.”
The affidavit said William Sims was being restrained by several individuals, including an off-duty Calhoun County deputy, and that after viewing the surveillance, the local officer determined it was Sims who struck him in the back with his right hand. He also alleged Sims struck a Franklin County teacher in the face and jaw.
“As I grabbed Mr. Sims by his left arm, he spun around making direct eye contact with me and palm heel struck me in my face and continued to push my head backwards,” wrote the officer. “Mr. Sims’ hand was squeezing my face very hard and I wasn’t able to see everything that was happening. I spontaneously reacted and instantly struck Mr. Sims in his face without even thinking about it, causing a laceration above his left eye.”
Another description in the affidavit said Sims had placed the officer “in a headlock with his arm under his neck.”
Smith announced the arrest and the warrants in a Facebook Live appearance Friday afternoon.
“We got to have order in our school functions,” said Smith. “We can’t have chaos when given a lawful command by a law enforcement officer.
Lanier, who viewed the video, said he was unsure “what really provoked the fight. It may have been a fan from Franklin County that provoked them. I’m not sure.”
He said he spoke Friday to Superintendent Darryl Taylor, Jr. of the Calhoun County School District. “He said he was disappointed that the game had ended that way and he’s going to do his own investigation.”
Lanier said Taylor personally escorted Altha players to the locker room with 30 seconds left on the clock.
“I think it’s a shame when we host an athletic event of such importance and when fans take away the real meaning of what that support is about, and when they come in and embarrass their own children by starting a fight and then attacking our sheriff’s department deputies,” said Lanier.
The superintendent said Mears is a father of one of the Altha players.
“They (the Altha individuals) hit one of our coaches and hit two of our deputies,” Lanier said. “I’ve never seen that before. I just think that it takes away from the importance of the game and it shifts the meaning away from the players to a fight by adults.
“I think up until the last 30 seconds of the game everything was in control and then this happened,” he said. “My concern is when we have unruly fans who are visiting that take it upon themselves to make it an unsafe environment.
“There were a lot of people involved in that,” he said. “When you fight two of our police officers when they’re escorting you out, there’s a problem.”