The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

Local News

April 20, 2010

MSSU football coach suspends five players

Arrests in melee outside nightclub cited

JOPLIN, Mo- — Missouri Southern State University’s football coach placed five players on investigative suspension Tuesday for their alleged involvement in a melee over the weekend outside a downtown Joplin nightclub.

The suspended players are Charles D. Johnson, 20, a redshirt freshman defensive back; Corderial T. Collier, 22, a junior defensive back; Justin C. Cowper, 21, a junior defensive back; Elreo L. Smith, 21, a junior running back; and Abdul R. Dione, 21, a junior offensive lineman.

The five players were among 10 people arrested by Joplin police on misdemeanor charges during what authorities described as a near-riot outside Club 502, 502 S. Joplin Ave., at closing time about 1:30 a.m. Sunday. Cowper and Dione were charged with obstruction. Johnson, Collier and Smith were charged with interfering with arrests.

Police say the fracas began with an assault on Marcel Nelson, 29, of Joplin, outside the club. Cedrick L. Smith, 23, allegedly punched Nelson and knocked him unconscious. Two police officers who witnessed the assault chased Smith down and were attempting to take him into custody when a group of men began encircling the officers and cursing them, according to police.

Johnson was identified in a police report as allegedly being the most aggressive in the group. An officer used a stun gun on him when he refused to back off as ordered, according to the report. An unidentified man then started toward the officer who had used his Taser on Johnson, and the officer pulled out his service weapon to keep him at bay, the report said.

Officers sought backup help as Johnson and Cedrick Smith were being loaded into a jail transport vehicle. At that point, a number of other scuffles broke out among a crowd of about 100 people in the parking lot across the street from the nightclub, police said.

‘Negative publicity’

“I’m greatly saddened by any negative publicity the alleged behavior of five or so of our MSSU football players have caused this institution,” coach Bart Tatum said during a news conference Tuesday.

“I do not have all the details from Saturday night, but I’m not waiting for more details to take action. I’ve decided to hand out immediate investigative suspensions of each athlete involved. They’re aware of that.”

He said the players will not be allowed to participate in any football program meetings, workouts or other team activities, with the exceptions of academic study sessions, and meetings with coaches and administrative staff members.

The team wrapped up its spring drills Saturday with an intrasquad scrimmage.

“When appropriate, further action will be taken,” Tatum said. “Final decisions for these young men could include, but are not limited to, reinstatement to the team, removal from the team or any other assortment of disciplinary actions in the middle, including game suspensions next fall.”

The coach said the final disciplinary actions to be taken with each player will not depend on the legal system running its course or court outcomes.

“Our disciplinary action will be separate from anything that comes from the legal community,” he said.

Tatum said he was informed of the arrests by the players themselves. He said he met with Joplin police Tuesday to discuss the matter and plans to meet with them again today.

While Tatum declined to identify the players who were suspended, the Globe confirmed which five players were arrested by police. The coach declined to explain why he referred to “five or so” players in his statement at the news conference. He subsequently said only five are suspended at this point.

Chief’s position

Police Chief Lane Roberts on Tuesday defended officers’ response to the situation outside the nightclub.

“I think under the circumstances, the officers showed great restraint,” Roberts said, adding that he does not believe officers are to blame for the initial assault escalating into a melee.

“Our response didn’t lead to the escalation,” Roberts said. “It was the other way around. The escalation led to the additional response.”

Officers from other law enforcement agencies and firefighters were called to the scene when multiple scuffles broke out between club patrons and officers.

Roberts said the department will be reviewing what took place because all uses of force are reviewed internally. No complaints from the public about officer misconduct had been received by Tuesday morning, he said.

‘Isolated problem’

“I have great respect for the Joplin Police Department and, fortunately, in my time here, we’ve had very few problems with them,” Tatum said of MSSU student-athletes in general.

He said this incident involved “less than 5 percent” of the football team. He said the vast majority of team members have been model members of the community whose conduct has been “like you want your own children to behave.”

The coach said that before the weekend, the five suspended players had been working hard to maintain good grades and to stay out of trouble. He said he views what happened as “an isolated problem,” which he intends to research in greater detail before deciding the players’ fates. He said it is important to remember that the players involved are young men, and “they’re not going to be perfect.”

The coach said a sense of loyalty to his players demands that he not make “a knee-jerk reaction” to their arrests.

“I want to be very, very sure that I’m giving these guys their due diligence,” he said.



Student-athlete manual

MSSU football coach Bart Tatum said the athletic department’s manual for student-athletes clearly states that problems involving drugs, alcohol or law enforcement “can result in game suspensions or worse.”

1
Text Only
Local News
  • Ballot issues dominate GOP event

    A maze of campaign yard signs lined the sidewalk at Big Spring Park, leading up to a line of local candidates for public office with rolled-up sleeves shaking hands with potential voters.

    July 24, 2014

  • Mike Pound: It’s time for some football

    The arrests, the announced suspensions and the contract disputes can mean only one thing: Somebody is ready for some football.

    July 24, 2014

  • Joplin district pursues more money for construction projects

    The Joplin Board of Education is proceeding with the sale of $8 million in lease certificates of participation to fund construction projects at the district’s three major rebuild projects.

    July 25, 2014

  • Cherokee County audit shows $23,000 missing

    A special audit of the Cherokee County Treasurer’s Office for 2011 and 2012 shows more than $23,000 is missing from county bank accounts, Cherokee County Commissioner Richard Hilderbrand said Friday.

    July 25, 2014

  • Landfill opponents seek answers

    The Baxter Springs High School auditorium was filled with hundreds of Cherokee County residents Thursday night as Galena city officials answered questions and listened to comments regarding a proposed landfill at Riverton.

    July 24, 2014

  • Hanaway says leadership missing under Gov. Nixon

    When Republican gubernatorial hopeful Catherine Hanaway walked into the banquet room at Granny Shaffer’s Restaurant this week, she was greeted by some of Joplin’s more prominent business leaders.

    July 24, 2014

  • Neosho athletes bring home silver

    For 19-year-old Dominque Dechant, it was the trip of a lifetime. She and three other athletes from Neosho traveled last month to Newark, New Jersey, as part of the Missouri Special Olympics girls basketball team.

    July 24, 2014

  • r072414msw.jpg VIDEO: Carterville company expands to third generation

    What began as Ray “Mac” McCoy’s side job in his home 55 years ago has grown not only in square footage and reach, but in generations. This summer, a third generation took over the reins of MSW — Mac’s Specialty Woodwork — that now exceeds 90,000 square feet and creates custom furniture for chain restaurants coast to coast.

    July 24, 2014 2 Photos

  • Shrine Bowl band, cheerleaders, players arrive in Pittsburg this week

    Band members were the first Kansas Shrine Bowl participants to arrive at Pittsburg State University this week.

    July 24, 2014

  • Galena council rescinds landfill decisions

    The Galena City Council voted Wednesday to rescind decisions it made two weeks ago regarding a proposed landfill at Riverton.

    July 23, 2014

Must Read
Sports
Photos


Facebook
Poll

A new provision by the U.S. Department of Agriculture allows qualifying districts with high percentages of students on food assistance to allow all students to eat free breakfasts and lunches. Would you agree with this provision?

Yes
No
     View Results
Opinion
Twitter Updates
Follow us on twitter