Throughout Eastside Catholic School’s state championship playoff run last season, three prominent football players were under police investigation for a late-August parking-lot brawl in Sammamish that sent one teenager to a hospital and injured two others.
Police and prosecutorial records obtained by The Seattle Times indicate several videos were made of the fight outside a local supermarket, which generated five 911 calls and was witnessed by dozens of people. King County Sheriff’s Office deputies investigated from mid-October through January and recommended two players be charged with second-degree felony assault and another with misdemeanor assault, stating the athletes had “premeditated” the exchange and “ganged up on” the smaller, outnumbered alleged victims.
The King County Prosecutor’s Office declined in February to charge anyone, and Issaquah prosecutors on March 13 dropped a charge of misdemeanor assault filed against one player, now 19, who was adult at the time. Both agencies cited conflicting information and uncertainty over whether the altercation constituted “mutual combat.”
King County prosecutor Michelle Larson, in declining felony charges, noted that, because one accused player turned 18 during a seven-week delay before police opened their investigation, he’d potentially been unfairly denied his right to be processed through the juvenile system.
The cases originated less than a year after King County prosecutors declined charges against four different Eastside Catholic players who were investigated for sexual assault of a 16-year-old girl in April 2018.
The three Eastside Catholic players involved in the fight kept playing throughout the latest investigation, which began with two games remaining in the 2019 regular season and continued through the team’s 3A championship win over O’Dea High School.
In a statement, Eastside Catholic administrators said they were not aware of details of the brawl until now, and that the behavior “is not acceptable or aligned with our values.” The incident occurred just before the school year.
“We are deeply dismayed and concerned, both by the behavior itself and that this information is only now coming to light,” the statement reads.
“It is clear that our communications processes have failed and that we need to take a hard look at why we were not aware of this sooner.”
The Seattle Times generally does not publish the names of suspects that aren’t charged. The 19-year-old’s name appears in some files but is not published because the criminal charge against him was dropped. The names of the other juvenile suspects were redacted from records.
On the night of Aug 24, a group of up to 75 teens from various schools had gathered at the Sammamish grocery store lot when the brawl broke out between some older teens and a group that one eyewitness described as “half the Eastside Catholic football team,” according to a police report.
Police found two alleged victims beaten and bruised. One of them went to a hospital with what records describe as a minor concussion and bruised ribs. Although the alleged victims, who did not attend Eastside Catholic, provided two suspect names, police didn’t pursue an investigation because the teens wouldn’t cooperate further.
But nearly two months later, on Oct. 13, one of those teens and a third alleged victim approached police with videos and additional names. They told police they feared retaliation by players.
The videos, according to police reports, showed one player grabbing an alleged victim in a chokehold from behind, while another blindsided a teen with a punch and knocked him unconscious. They recommended felony charges against both.
A third player was said by police to be seen “curb-stomping” a teen defenseless on the ground. He was initially charged with misdemeanor assault.
But King County prosecutors said it was still difficult to ascertain that the players weren’t acting in self-defense and therefore didn’t merit felony charges.
After King County declined more serious felony charges against the 18-year-old, the case was referred to Issaquah prosecutor Alexa McBarron for a possible misdemeanor filing, she said in an interview Tuesday.
Soon after, a Seattle lawyer who was a “godmother” to the player gave McBarron eight sworn statements from eyewitnesses not interviewed by police, as well as an audio recording. Together, they portrayed a different scenario, in which the 18 year-old was trying to pull the alleged victim away from fighting a much bigger player.
Based on that evidence, McBarron re-examined the case. After finding problems with victims’ statements and seeing Snapchat messages suggesting they appeared to be threatening players before and after the altercation, she declined to file charges against the 18-year-old. She also dropped those against the 19-year-old.