Sheriff Strength supports deputies' actions at festival

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Fallout continues over the James Brown Music Festival.

Champ Walker claims deputies were out of line in threatening to arrest him.

Tuesday, May 30, Sheriff Ronnie Strength held a news conference responding to those claims.

The James Brown Music Festival ended Sunday, but it's the way things started Sunday that still has organizers upset.

Champ Walker has spoken out claiming deputies were called to the venue to intimidate him.

Sheriff Strength says there's more to the story.

"He said, 'Issue an arrest for Champ Walker', it was unmistakable," Walker said.

"There's two sides to every story, y'all have heard me say that many times," said Strength. "One side has been told, now I'm going to tell our side."

Sheriff Strength says that while he was not at the James Brown Music Festival, after interviewing those involved, he stands behind his deputies.

"I do not see in any way that the officers were out of line in anything they did," he said. "They had a job to do and they were doing their job."

The fallout comes after a heated dispute between festival chairman Champ Walker and Sgt. Walter Ashley on Sunday, the final day of the James Brown Music Festival.

"You probably had ten or eleven white officers surrounding me," Walker said. "Some had popped their holsters, sweating, nervous, saying, 'We gonna get paid'."

Sheriff Strength says deputies were called because organizers were attempting to set up a stage at the amphitheater after he says Walker told Sgt. Ashley the night before that they would not be using the venue.

The sheriff says there was also confusion about whether Walker would pay the deputies for their services. Walker says he planned to pay them after the event was over.

That's when the sheriff say things got out of control.

"Walker tried to create a scene by shouting that the Sheriff's Office was cancelling the event, that they were going to arrest him and that the sheriff's office was threatening him," Sheriff Strength said.

The event was temporarily halted. Eventually city leaders showed up and the festival continued free of charge.

It was definitely a decision that was made in haste," said interim commissioner Keith Brown. "It may have been made under pressure. I don't think it was the best way for it to be handled."

"I think it was handled as best it could be after whatever the altercation was, which I'm still trying to figure out exactly what happened," said Augusta mayor Deke Copenhaver.

City leaders are expected to meet with the sheriff later this week to further discuss this issue.