Originally created 03/13/98

Witnesses dispute officer's account



ATHENS, Ga. -- A University of Georgia police officer's version of a violent incident at a fraternity house differs from the accounts of other witnesses at the Nov. 15 party, according to documents university officials released this week.

The records were released after the Athens Daily News filed a request for the investigative file of the now-closed case.

Kappa Sigma fraternity member James McLeod Norman, 22 of Thomasville, and Sean Ragsdale, 24, an alumnus from Chamblee, were charged with battery and felony obstruction of an officer in the incident. Officials dropped charges against the pair nine days after the officer involved resigned over allegations he beat his girlfriend.

Former university police officer William Parks Owens IV, 24, said the men beat and severely injured him when he tried to shut down a party at the Kappa Sigma fraternity house after it went past a university-prescribed 3 a.m. curfew.

However, the documents quote numerous witnesses who said the altercation started after Mr. Owens began pushing toward the front of the crowd in a dimly lit room as he tried to reach a friend.

According to Mr. Owens' account, Mr. Norman and Mr. Ragsdale and other fraternity brothers attacked him after he identified himself as a police officer. He also suffered a blow to the back of the head, a possible broken wrist and neurological damage, Mr. Owens said.

University police Detective Kenneth Harmon said Mr. Owens' medical records didn't confirm the officer's account.

But Mr. Harmon wrote in a report of his investigation, "It is believed that these two individuals were intoxicated and that contributed to their apparent lack of sound judgment. Based on all the information received, probable cause is present to believe that both (name deleted) and Ragsdale committed battery and felony obstruction. This case is cleared by arrest."

The university's Office of Judicial Programs penalized the fraternity by forbidding it from holding parties during winter quarter.