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.