More than half a dozen Washington State football players have been identified as persons of interest as the Pullman Police Department begins its investigation into a fight at an off campus house that occurred in the wee hours of Saturday morning
More than half a dozen Washington State football players have been identified as persons of interest as the Pullman Police Department begins its investigation into a fight at an off-campus house that occurred early Saturday morning.
“Right now it’s more than five or six (players), but not much more that we’re looking at who are actively involved,” Pullman Police Commander Chris Tennant said Monday afternoon. “I think it’s a little premature to call anybody a suspect, but we can confirm after talking to people, even players, that WSU football players were at this party. We have a list of names provided to us by witnesses and victims, and sometimes even players themselves.
“Some WSU football players are persons of interest and we’re working with the WSU athletic department and the football department.”
The incident occurred at a house on Oak Street near the WSU campus, at about 1 a.m. on Saturday, and resulted in one WSU student sustaining a head wound and a concussion, while another, Alex Rodriguez, 21, had his jaw broken in several places.
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Rodriguez underwent facial reconstructive surgery on Saturday in which his jaw was wired shut. He is limited to a liquid diet for the next six weeks, and said in a Facebook post that he will “no longer have the same bite” for the rest of his life.
Witnesses said the fight broke out after Rodriguez and the other victim – who declined to be named – noticed a group of WSU football players setting off fireworks in the backyard of the house they lived in, which was also the site of the “open party.”
One witness said the array of fireworks included bottle rockets and firecrackers.
Sasha Hamirani, a WSU junior who was at the party and who ended up taking Rodriguez to the hospital, said some of the men who set off the fireworks were also throwing them at people in the crowd.
The victim who suffered a concussion said he recalled speaking to a group of four or five men who were standing in his backyard throwing fireworks in the general direction of other partygoers.
He asked the men to stop because this was a safety concern, but said they ignored him initially.
The third time he went back to the group to ask them to leave, the victim said he was “sucker punched” in the right cheek and he blacked out for about 10 minutes.
A fight broke out, and at least three eyewitnesses The Seattle Times spoke to said Rodriguez was hit multiple times and then kicked in the face while he was lying on the ground.
The victim who sustained a concussion said he didn’t know at the time that the man who assaulted him was a football player, but said some of his friends who were at the party later informed him that his assailant was a WSU football player.
Several eyewitnesses have furnished police with two cellphone videos of the fight as well as a list of names of WSU football players they believe assaulted Rodriguez and his friend.
Hamirani said the man who allegedly gave her friend a concussion had a very distinctive “sleeve” tattoo all the way down to his wrist on one of his arms, and wore his hair in a “very distinctive way.”
Hamirani was one of the eyewitnesses who identified the men involved in the fight as WSU football players, but she added that not all the football players who were at the party participated in the fight.
“A player named Willie Roach was trying to stop the fight,” Hamirani said. “It wasn’t all of them ganging up, just a few set people in the mix.”
Hamirani has set up a GoFundMe crowdfunding page to help Rodriguez and his family raise money to pay for his medical expenses.
In a statement released Monday afternoon, WSU athletic director Bill Moos said his department was aware of the situation and that WSU would cooperate fully with law enforcement in their investigation.
“It is our understanding there is a thorough investigation underway by local law enforcement and we will cooperate fully as we take these matters seriously,” Moos said. “In addition, facts are being gathered within the athletic department in order to provide assistance. We have high expectations for the conduct of WSU student-athletes, and treat any alleged allegations with the utmost transparency.
“The WSU athletic staff is in constant communication with the Office of the President and the Office of Student Life to ensure that university leadership is aware of the continuing investigation by local law enforcement. We will refrain from further comment until the findings of the investigation are complete.”
Tennant said WSU football coach Mike Leach’s staff has been cooperative and added that “the Leach administration in football has been very good to work with.”
However, the police commander cautioned that the investigation will not be easy in part because of the number of people at the party, and in part because alcohol was involved.
“We need to pin down what an individual did, what actions he took, and why he took them, and then prove this beyond reasonable doubt,” Tennant said. “I do not anticipate any arrests this week.”
It’s premature to speculate about sentencing, Tennant said, but the perpetrator will likely face felony level assault charges that could result in a fine of around $5,000 and more than a year in jail.
“We have four identified male victims, two injuries with one knocked unconscious and the other with a broken jaw,” Tennant said. “Both of those raise the assault to a felony level.”
Roberto Rodriguez, Alex’s father, said Monday that after police make an arrest, he intends to file a civil suit and push for criminal charges against the individuals responsible for his son’s injuries.
“It’s obviously an unfortunate event. The irony is that my son has always been a WSU football fan. He ran the field when they beat Oregon last year,” Rodriguez said. “When somebody is down on the ground and you kick them in the face, that’s a huge character flaw and it shouldn’t be tolerated by any football program.”
As of Monday afternoon, Rodriguez said his son was resting at the family home in Medical Lake and is “heavily medicated” but added that Alex intends to return to Pullman soon and try to resume work at one of his two jobs, as a cook at Jack in the Box.