Charges have been filed against three coaches and a 14-year-old boy after a referee was attacked at a youth football game this past weekend, Sarasota County Sheriff Tom Knight said today.
The coaches were identified as Dexter Austin, 43, of Bradenton; Timothy Howard, 38, of Sarasota; Antonio Bradley, 28, of North Port. The teenager, a player, was identified as Jamisen Saintvale.
TBO.com doesn't always name juvenile suspects but will in this case due to the seriousness and public nature of the incident.
Each is charged with one count of battery on a sports official, a third-degree felony. In addition, Howard was charged with misdemeanor battery after he assaulted a coach from the opposing team who was trying to break up the melee, sheriff's officials said.
Knight's announcement came about two hours after the referee, Jayme Ream, 41, gave a brief statement at his attorney's office in Pinellas Park.
"I have enjoyed being a referee for the past 14 years, and look forward to continuing to do so for many years," Ream said, reading from a prepared statement at the office of attorney Frank DiCosola.
"Unfortunately, I believe this is a situation that involved people that let their emotions overcome them," he said.
According to an arrest affidavit, the attack occurred at 1 p.m. Saturday at Riverview High School in Sarasota, where the Sarasota Gators were pitted against the North Port Huskies. The youth football players were 13, 14 and 15 years old.
Near the end of the first half, the Huskies led by a score of 30 to 6. Ream had called several penalties against the Gators, the affidavit said, and in return, the Gators' coaches verbally abused Ream, eventually throwing water at him. That's when Ream ejected the coaches from the contest, and terminated the game within minutes of the first half ending, the affidavit says.
The Gators coaches then became hostile toward Ream, and Ream retreated, but some of the coaches followed him, the affidavit says.
"The victim became increasingly afraid for his safety and felt that physical conflict was unavoidable at which point he stopped on the field," the affidavit says.
There was a fight between him and Austin, with Austin throwing a water bottle at him, the affidavit says. But Ream stood his ground. When Austin came at him again, Ream hit him and Austin fells to his knees, the affidavit says.
Right after that, the other two coaches and the youth football player attacked Ream, the affidavit says. A video taken by a bystander showed the youth football player bringing Ream to the ground.
Others tried stopping the attack, but Austin forced his way back to Ream and raised his left leg, as it to kick Ream in the head, the affidavit says. Instead he kicked him in the left shoulder.
While Ream was on the ground, Howard, who had run to him from the sidelines, lunged at him with closed fists, to punch him in the head, though no blows landed there, another affidavit says. However, Howard jumped on top of him, and struck him, that affidavit says.
A large crowd formed around Ream, and he was pulled to safety. Then Howard approached North Port coach Christopher Smith, tackling him to the ground and putting him in a choke hold until he was pulled off him.
Both Ream and Smith were punched and kicked several times. Ream suffered a fractured shoulder.
Though he characterized the incident as one in which some people let their emotions get the better of them, Ream said he hoped families and players not involved in the incident will continue to participate in youth football sports. Both Ream and his attorney declined to speak specifically about the participants in the attack.
Ream said he was allowing authorities to "decide the proper ramifications."
Sheriff's Lt. Vince Mayer attended the brief announcement at DiCosola's office to see what Ream had to say.
Ream has cooperated with authorities.
Ream encouraged all parents involved in youth sports to practice good sportsmanship.