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GSP trooper arrested for fighting
Altercation occurred outside Paulson Stadium before Saturday's football game at GSU
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Cpl. Charles Russell "Rusty" Rankin, left, and Stuart Ward Smith, right

A Georgia State Patrol trooper was arrested after a fight before Saturday's football game at Georgia Southern University's Paulson Stadium.

According to Georgia Southern University Police reports, Cpl. Charles Russell "Rusty" Rankin, 45, of Bowen Rushing Road, was charged with affray. So was the man with whom he was fighting, Stuart Ward Smith, 27, of North Drive in Savannah.

Around 5:09 p.m., GSU Police officer Harry Jones was standing with another GSU officer near the site at which a radio show was being recorded at the stadium "at the request of members of the GSU radio show," where Seth Harp from "Harp on Sports" was being interviewed, Jones stated in reports. Harp is "known to pick at Georgia Southern fans," and additional police presence was requested to prevent altercations.

Heavy rainfall kept crowds under shelters and tailgaters under tents, and because the crowd was quiet due to the weather, the officers were preparing to leave the scene when they heard people calling "Police! Police!" Jones said.

Jones saw two men "clinched up and in an obvious fight" and ordered them to stop. The two - Rankin and Smith - did not obey orders and continued to fight in an area where families were tailgating, according to Jones' report.

Fearing the fight could cause injury because of its proximity to lighted grills and children, Jones then used pepper spray on both men, breaking up the fight. He handcuffed Smith, then noticed a handgun tucked into Rankin's waistband. As another officer placed Rankin in handcuffs, Rankin told him he was a law enforcement officer and that he had a gun, Jones said.

Bulloch County EMS arrived, and both men were treated for the effects of pepper spray before they were taken to the Bulloch County Jail, arrested on affray charges, Jones said.

Sgt. Brad Mosher, Georgia State Patrol Post 45 commander, said his agency "is aware of the incident," which will be reviewed by the Office of Professional Standards, and that he could not comment on the incident or how it will be handled by the state, as the case is still under investigation.

Mosher said Rankin has retained an attorney. Reports did not specify reasons for the fight and listed no injuries.

Holli Deal Saxon may be reached at (912) 489-9414.



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