(SALT LAKE CITY) — A youth football halfback in Utah was headed for a touchdown this past Saturday that would have broken a tie in one of the last games of the season.
At that moment, the opposing team’s volunteer coach allegedly stepped onto the field in Payson City, Utah, and struck the 13-year-old player down — leading to the coach’s arrest.
“What I saw was the Payson player running toward the Mapleton sideline,” said the game referee, David Durrant. “What I saw was the Mapleton coach didn’t even try to move. He just raised his arms and hit him with his forearms, is what it looked like.”
Durrant threw a yellow flag. At that point, Nathan Harris, the assistant coach for the Mapleton City’s football team, was thrown out of the game.
Harris was arrested that following Monday by Payson police. The father of six now faces a second-degree felony child abuse charge over the allegation that he hit the seventh grade football player — a charge that is punishable by as many as 15 years in prison.
“From watching the video [of the game] several times and having other people, such as the county attorney, [watch], and putting together witness statements,” said Det. Sgt. Lance Smith of the Payson Police Department, it looked like “the Payson player was running down the sideline and the male individual who was assisting the coaching team struck the boy in the chin with his forearm and backed away and declined to offer any assistance to the boy.”
An overwhelming majority of officials from the City of Payson seemed to believe that Harris was in the wrong. However, Harris’ attorneys claimed possible bias in the story.
“Local law enforcement did a shoddy investigation and are interviewing hometown fans,” said one of Harris’ attorneys, Rhome Zabriskie. “The video released by law enforcement seems to be doctored and edited. Conveniently, the video cuts off right after the boy hits the ground giving the impression that the boy gets knocked out.”
According to Durrant, “The player got up and went to his own sideline,” after his fall and went to the hospital after the game, which Payson City’s football team won with a field goal in overtime.
The young football player has since been diagnosed with a concussion because of the run-in with Harris, reported ABC News’ Salt Lake City affiliate, KTVX-TV.
“Mr. Harris felt bad that the boy is hurt,” said Zabriskie. “At the same time, he had no time to react. He had his two little boys standing behind him and no time to react.”
Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio
Ray Sanchez, CNN Newswire
Chuck Johnston, CNN Newswire