Tim McGraw Denies Assaulting Police Officer

In first statement about incident, singer says police escalated what had been innocent horseplay.

NASHVILLE — Saying he acted out of fear for the safety of his two children, country superstar Tim McGraw rebutted assault charges filed against him after a June 3 incident at Ralph Wilson Stadium near Buffalo, N.Y.

McGraw, singer Kenny Chesney and a McGraw employee were arrested after a fracas with police.

"At no time did I ever throw any punches," McGraw said in a statement Thursday (June 15).

Breaking his silence over the matter, McGraw released the statement through his attorney, Tom Eoannou, at the Gaylord Entertainment Center here, just hours before McGraw was to appear there for the TNN Music Awards show.

The incident, which occurred after the artists' performance at the George Strait Country Music Festival, grew out of Chesney's mounting and riding a police horse. Officers allegedly removed him forcibly, and McGraw went to his aid.

In the statement, McGraw said a police car racing through the backstage gate and toward his friend Chesney caused obvious danger.

"I was just coming off the stage in Buffalo when I saw a police car burst into the private artist area going incredibly fast," McGraw said in his statement. "My first thought was for the safety of my children, who were playing there.

"I saw two officers leap from their car and run toward Kenny, who was riding a horse. Kenny raised his hands as if he were surrendering, yelling he had permission to ride the horse, when they reached up and began to rip him from the horse. Fearing for Kenny's safety, I ran over to offer assistance."

McGraw and Chesney are due to appear in Orchard Park Town Court in Erie County, N.Y., on July 18 to face charges. McGraw faces the most serious accusation, a felony charge of assault on a police officer, which could bring him up to seven years in prison.

McGraw denied that he assaulted any of the officers. "At no time did I ever throw any punches or put anyone in anything remotely resembling a choke hold," he said. "One of the officers pulled his nightstick and hit me at least three times on my leg. The other officer kept saying this was all a misunderstanding."

McGraw said he was disturbed that people "were making light of the incident" and that he considers it "a very serious matter" and wanted to "set the record straight."

He said eyewitnesses have come forward to support Chesney's contention that he had permission to ride the police horse. "I am confident," McGraw said in the statement, "that once the district attorney has had the chance to fully investigate, all the charges will be dropped and justice done. If it's necessary, then I welcome the opportunity to go before a jury who I know will agree neither Kenny or I did anything wrong."

McGraw is a nominee for five TNN awards, including Entertainer of the Year and Collaborative Event for "Let's Make Love" (RealAudio excerpt), a duet with his wife, Faith Hill.