Home NEWS Sports Alleged Underwater Assault Results In Felony Charge For Acalanes Water Polo Player

Alleged Underwater Assault Results In Felony Charge For Acalanes Water Polo Player

Photo: iSport/Getty Images (file)

Sports-conscious Lamorindans are abuzz after felony assault and battery charges were brought against a 15-year-old Acalanes High School water polo player prosecutors say intentionally broke the nose of an opposing player during a water polo tournament in Walnut Creek.

The charges, and the way they came about, have led to a vigorous discussion on the potential of violence in sport and possibility of criminal prosecution for inflicted injury once considered part of the game.

SF Gate, reporting extensively on the alleged assault and pending charges, reports that Contra Costa County prosecutors filed the charges after concluding an underwater blow to the boy’s face — captured on video from the stands and later handed over to police — was purposeful and crossed the line into criminal behavior.

Some have called the case an example of violence in sports crossing the line over “rough play” and into criminal behavior. Others puzzled over the charges, calling them excessive for a youngster involved in a sport known for its rough play.

The alleged attack occurred underwater Sept. 19 during a junior varsity match between Acalanes and Bellarmine College Preparatory of San Jose, with both involved swimmers competing in a tournament at Las Lomas High School.

Circumstances remain in dispute, according to SF Gate, but video of the incident shot by someone in the stands and handed over to investigators appears to show an intentional strike by the Acalanes swimmer – who allegedly used his leg or knee to hit a Bellarmine swimmer in the face. The foul was apparently not witnessed by referees.

The Bellarmine swimmer, who is not identified, can be seen grabbing his nose and had to leave the match – his wound so severe he reportedly required surgery.

News of the incident and video of the alleged blow were taken to police in Walnut Creek, SF Gate reported, with their investigators opening an investigation and taking their case to the Contra Costa County District Attorney’s Office – who filed felony charges of assault and battery this month.

No names are given due to the ages of those involved, but coaches and former players told SF Gate they were surprised by the charges. Russ Stryker, head coach for the Acalanes JV team, told reporters that after viewing the video his player was suspended from the final game of the tournament, was suspended from school for a day, and that he – Stryker – suspended the play from the team for 18 days.

The assault and battery case remains open and pending in county juvenile court.


  1. They must have really seen something egregious on that video. Who was filming and why were they filming those two swimmers?

  2. Very interesting. It’s a tough sport. But if they were bringing charges for every loose elbow or after the play punch half my high school football team would be behind bars.

  3. Wow. Some of the injuries reported by plaers moms sound horrendous. I can’t imagine. Carefully steering the kids into synchronized swimming — less chance of broken fingers, missing teeth and fingernail scrapes!!!

  4. Whats the statute of limitations on this stuff? I’m thinking of going after the kid who broke my arm in pee wee league football back in ’71.

  5. I have not seen the video, but I can imagine behavior bad enough to file charges. If coaches, schools, and referees had the judgement, spine, character and authority to permanently kick kids off of teams for poor behavior, things might not escalate to the above situation.

  6. Ten minutes with the defendant’s teammates (while on truth serum) would be all you’d need to know if this was criminal or not— based on their history with the boy.

    But I can’t imagine a prosecutor thinking that he could ever get a conviction in the real world. I’m sure the video depicts acts that could be (or seem very likely to be) intentional and criminal. But how could it be possible that they don’t ALSO depict body movements that are consistent with aggressively playing a very physical and sometimes chaotic sport.

    My guess is that the DA pressured the boy (and parents) to plea to lesser charges and they called his bluff (likely because the boy could afford a private attorney in contrast to most kids who are forced to take such deals). I assume the DA never wanted to pursue a felony charge here, and now is caught out in an awkward situation that can’t really end well.

    I don’t know the rules, but I suspect that, unless he is charged as an adult, he won’t be entitled to a jury trial– even for a violent felony. Which is kind of unfair, IMHO. In a situation where no jury would convict him, it would be a shame to get unlucky with judge selection and get harsh punishment.

  7. Parents probably never played sports therefore having no clue about contact and aggression that sometimes happens. I played ice hockey my whole life, got hit in the face with sticks and my parents never filed for assault with a deadly weapon, it’s part of the game. Parents are way to soft these days period!

  8. Joe, I played on my high school football team as a guard. There was the occasional aggression, pushing, and such but I don’t remember anything that could count as a serious attack. At one of my kid’s soccer games this season, the goalie (I know her parents) got the ball, she was on her knees, the play was over, but an opposing player hit her with her knee in the head deliberately and viciously. Our goalie went to emergency. You think that is OK? Why should that be considered part of the game? I’m not saying police should be involved in that. What I’m saying is such behavior not acceptable and the adults present should have made it clear to that little monster that such behavior is unacceptable.

  9. America is fast becoming a nation of wimps. Helicopter parents will implode us with co dependency and kids unable to deal with what life throws their way, be it a curve ball or a blow to the nose. Toughen up, this is lame…and why does Russ S, even pull the rip cord? He’s been coaching for ages, he knows well enough what’s going on, and the antics under water would make one cringe. Do we resort to underwater cameras in high school/college for review?
    I forwarded this to my mates in NZ….all just laughing at it and knowing why US will never succeed in Intl Rugby Union…..not tough enough.
    DA, really going to waste resources on this and set a ridiculous precedent for every player injured in a contact sport?

  10. Donald: Much to your surprise, I agree with your main point. But much of the wimpiness is from not declaring what is right from wrong and other factors beyond what I have space for here. If the alleged behavior in the story is true, how is that so different than the exact same attack during school hours at lunch? If a kid walks up and breaks another kid’s nose intentionally during lunch time, they’d likely be suspended from school for a week or something. So why would it be acceptable to intentionally break someone’s nose during a game when it was not in any way part of the game. According to the story, the ball was no where near them.

  11. I haven’t seen the video, but I think it’s sad that high school sports has gone from a certain level of violence (which will happen in rough sports) to felony charges. I agree with the protection of children. As responsible adults ( parents and non-parents alike), we have to protect our children, and let them face the consequences when they screw up. If you’re intentionally assaulting someone, and you’re caught on video, it’s up to the DA. Maybe it’s the wake-up call they need. I hear they’re asking for letters of support to be written to the district attorney’s office. How about parents getting out of denial, stop the enabling, and kids taking responsibility for their actions? How else will they become responsible, law abiding adults one day if they’re not held responsible for their behavior? If it is overzealous charges, that’s up to the DA. Maybe Dad’s will step in and tell their sons to chill out. There’s a big difference between sports related injuries and intentionally assaulting someone, regardless of where the assault occurs.

  12. I have not seen the video, but The fact that the refs didn’t see it is telling. The attack was likely very viscous and likely occurred nowhere near the ball, therefore 100% intentional vs a two players colliding “crap happens” moment in a sporting event.

  13. Am I right that someone in the stands shot the video of two players and managed to capture something that occurred underwater? Clearly? And the officials didn’t see it?

  14. We’ve seen lawsuits brought or threatened for coaches laying hands on players, players who don’t get enough court or pool time, in the name of players with disabilities or prohibited from play due to gender – I’m kind of surprised this sort of legal move hasn’t been made before.

  15. This is insane. I played polo for years. I can’t tell you how many times I got punched, grabbed, kneed, kicked, elbowed and how many times I did it back. Its part of the game. Get over it. If you don’t like it, don’t play it. Problem solved. Perhaps synchronized swimming or curling is more your sport. Or heck, lets put you in a giant bumble, tell you everything will be ok, and shield you from anything that you may not like. Sounds like a solid life plan…

  16. I have not seen the video, but my son goes to Acalanes HS and the rumor going around school is that the mother of the injured boy is an attorney.

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