JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – An altercation between the defensive coordinator of the visiting San Jose Sabercats and general manager of the Jacksonville Sharks after Saturday night's game led to an assault that landed the local man in the hospital and the visiting man in jail.
According to the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office, the incident began when the owner of the visiting team upset about the Sharks cheerleaders being on the field during the game confronted two of the cheerleaders in the hallway outside the locker rooms. Laura Bouchy, the co-owner of the Sharks, intervened and the argument escalated, with several members of the Sabercats coming out of the locker rooms to get involved.
Witnesses told police Ronald Johnson, assistant general manager of the Sharks, got involved to protect Bouchy and the cheerleaders, but was ultimately punched and slammed against the wall by Sabercats defensive coordinator Cedric Walker.
Johnson was taken to Baptist Medical Center with chest pains. Walker, 42, who had already boarded the Sabercats team bus by the time police arrived, was arrested and charged with battery on a person 65 years of age or older.
According to the police report, Walker (booking photo, right) told investigators the he became enraged and chased and struck Johnson after the Jacksonville GM had twice called him "boy" twice during the verbal argument. The Sabercats gave a statement to a San Jose newspaper Sunday saying racial epithets were involved in the confrontation. The team's front office said Monday the league said it can no longer comment.
Colin Barrera saw the confrontation escalate.
"There was a lot of shouting, there was an exchange between the two," said Barrera, who was in the tunnel. "I don't remember what was being said, but after the exchange of words they started fighting."
"I saw (Johnson's) face was all bloody and blood was dripping out of his nose," Barrera added. "So there were people there helping him. As soon as it happened it was over. It wasn't like it was a long drawn-out thing."
The Sharks have not talked agreed to talk about the incident, but the commissioner of the Arena Football League, Jerry Kurz, released this statement:
"The altercation that took place between two of our teams Saturday night was not at all the level of professional conduct expected at an Arena Football League event. We take the safety of our players and staff very seriously, so a full independent investigation into the incident has been initiated."