Referee charged with murder following altercation with youth basketball coach

Ben Rohrbach
May 7, 2014
Youth basketball coach Justin Griffin (left) is dead following an altercation with referee Joshua Adams (right). (Facebook/Jackson Police Department)

An on-court argument between a Mississippi youth basketball referee and coach took a deadly turn.

Joshua Adams, 37, has been arrested for the murder of coach Justin Griffin following a confrontation outside a junior high game at the Mississippi Basketball and Athletics gymnasium, according to The Clarion-Ledger. Adams is a Hinds County Sherrif's Deputy and was off duty while refereeing the game. Another uniformed Hinds County deputy at the scene has been placed on probation pending the investigation.

Griffin, 25, reportedly questioned Adams' calls during the game, and the two later had a physical altercation outsdie the gym. According to The Clarion-Ledger's Therese Apel, who watched surveillance video of the incident, Griffin struck Adams several times in the head before Adams threw a punch to the coach's chin that knocked him to the ground and ended the fight. Griffin later died from an internal injury.

However, Griffin's friend and fellow coach, Julias Pickett, relayed a slightly different take to WAPT-TV.

"The man comes out behind him. He's saying something to him, I don't know what he's saying. He goes to grab Justin by the arm. Justin goes, 'Why are you grabbing me?' Then the other guy goes to grab him by the neck. He never said a word. This is the deputy with his uniform on. When he pulls away, here comes the referee guy. He comes at him. What are you supposed to do when another man comes at you? You back up in defense. That's what he did. When he hit him, I pulled out my phone and began the video. Then I saw my friend hit the ground."

Either way, a young man is dead, his players witnessed a life-altering horror and the Jackson (Miss.) Police Department found enough evidence to arrest a man who the county saw fit to watch over them.

"What we found warrants a murder charge," JPD Assistant Chief Lee Vance told The Clarion-Ledger. "Once it gets into the court system, we have very little influence. We can only charge based on the facts and circumstances we find in the course of the investigation."

Friends and family described Griffin as a church-going man who loved both basketball and children.

"He was there for those young men so they didn't fall prey to situations like this, at the hands of those who abuse their power," his mother, Cynthia Griffin, told The Clarion-Ledger. "Not only did he mentor young men, he mentored mothers and spoke with them and advised them when their children were going astray."