SALT LAKE CITY (CBS Las Vegas/AP) — A youth football coach struck a 13-year-old player from his son’s opposing team near the sideline during the fourth quarter of a tied game, giving the boy a concussion and outraging parents and spectators, a Utah police sergeant said Wednesday.
Police arrested Mapleton assistant coach Nathan Harris for investigation of felony child abuse after watching grainy video and talking to witnesses about Saturday’s incident in Payson, about 60 miles south of Salt Lake City.
According to KSL-TV, Harris allegedly stepped onto the field and tackled the boy from the Payson team.
“As the 13-year-old ran down, Mr. Harris stepped out and hit him with his forearm under his chin,” police Sgt. Lance Smith said. “And then Mr. Harris stepped back and just stood there.”
Referee David Durrant said the boy looked like he was about to go out of bounds — or had just gotten out of bounds — when he was hit near the sideline of the visiting team.
“It looked like the coach had a lot of time to move, he didn’t move, and he stood there and delivered a blow,” Durrant said.
Durrant threw a penalty flag and ejected Harris.
The boy’s mother told KSL-TV that Harris “blind-sided” her son with the hit.
The incident was an accident and there was no malice behind Harris’ actions, attorney Dean Zabriskie said. He said police have relied too heavily on witnesses who were standing far away and the video — which was shot from the opposite sidelines — shows Harris wasn’t too close to the field and appears to show the coach stepping backward as players came toward him.
Also, it looks like a player who was pursuing the 13-year-old had some contact that pushed the boy toward Harris, he said.
“It seems to me like a tempest in a teapot,” Zabriskie said.
Mike Nelson, a coach with Harris on Mapleton, agrees.
“I’m in the video,” Nelson told the Deseret News. “I’m standing on the sideline, and I see the kid making the edge. … He’s coming downhill toward us, and on a trajectory that looked like he was going to come at me. So I took two-and-a-half steps downfield. Our middle linebacker literally pushes him out of bounds (from behind) and right into Nate Harris.”
Harris, a volunteer assistant whose son was also playing in the game, was arrested Monday and posted $5,000 bail on Tuesday. The Utah County Attorney’s office will decide whether to file charges.
Police said the boy was expected to miss a month of playing time. His team won in overtime with a field goal, Durrant said.
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