Crawford officials ask GBI to look into dispute between coroner, police chief

The GBI has been asked to investigate why Crawford County’s coroner was arrested Friday after a dispute with Roberta’s police chief.

Monday, the city and Coroner Allen O’Neal offered dramatically different versions of the dispute. O’Neal said Police Chief Marlin Marcantel threatened to arrest O’Neal and his son when O’Neal’s son called to argue about a traffic ticket. City officials released a police report saying that after Marcantel turned down O’Neal’s demands to change the ticket, Allen O’Neal went to City Hall, bumped chests with Marcantel and tried locking himself in a truck to avoid arrest.

City officials formally requested the investigation Monday morning. O’Neal said separately that he would welcome and fully cooperate with any investigation.

Marcantel and Mayor Becky Smith did not return phone calls seeking comment Monday, but city officials provided The Telegraph with a copy of the police incident report.

Gary Rothwell, special agent in charge of the GBI’s Perry office, said he expects such documentation to be provided this week. The GBI may investigate if a state crime has been committed, but the state agency does not conduct internal affairs investigations or investigate violations of municipal law, Rothwell said.

O’Neal said he was given a city citation, but the police report lists three state crimes and their state statutes — criminal trespass, willfully obstructing or hindering law enforcement officers and disorderly conduct. It wasn’t clear Monday whether the GBI would have jurisdiction to investigate.

About the only thing both sides agree on is that O’Neal’s son Charles received a traffic ticket and argued about it with Marcantel.

“He faced him up with the fact that some tickets had been changed from just citations to warnings, and he was wondering why he might not be one in that category. ... The police chief said he would have a warrant taken out for him and for his daddy,” Allen O’Neal said.

Allen O’Neal said he went to the police department to find out why he was going to be charged. There, Marcantel told him to leave and then had him arrested when he got to his truck. “One minute I was trying to leave, and the next he didn’t want me to leave,” O’Neal said.

Roberta officer Benjamin Thomas reported that both O’Neals called the police station several times to try to change the tickets. Marcantel told Charles O’Neal to stop calling or he would take out warrants for harassment. Allen O’Neal reportedly called again to say he wanted to see Marcantel get warrants, hung up, drove up to the City Hall and parked facing the door.

Employees were “scared he was going to do something,” Thomas wrote in his report. Then “Allen walked inside the P.D. and got in the chief’s face and started bumping him with his chest saying he wanted to see the warrants and continued to argue with the chief. The chief asked him several times to leave in a polite manner.”

He was told to leave again or risk criminal trespass charges, walked outside, continued to argue, and was told he was being placed under arrest.

“He said no and jumped in his vehicle and locked the driver’s door. I opened the passenger’s door before he could lock it,” Thomas wrote. “It looked like he was going to put the vehicle in drive and try to leave then. He exited the vehicle, he resisted when cuffs was (sic) being put on him by the deputies on scene.”

To contact writer Mike Stucka, call 744-4251.