Police in both Alaska and Oregon are investigating video of an assistant football coach who reportedly knocked a freshman linebacker unconscious during an impromptu boxing match in front of his team on an annual trip this past summer.
The video -- allegedly depicting Thunder Mountain (Juneau, Alaska) High assistant John Wahl striking the player multiple times in the head -- has been removed from YouTube as part of its anti-bullying policy, but the Juneau Empire detailed the alleged assault.
Upon learning of the incident, Juneau School District officials provided information to the Juneau Police Department and showed footage of the alleged assault to the player's father. The JPD has since notified police in Gold Beach, Ore., where the events occurred.
During an annual school-sponsored trip to an Oregon football camp this past summer, Wahl and the rising freshman donned boxing gloves but no headgear, according to the Juneau Empire report. Video reportedly showed Wahl striking the Thunder Mountain player in the face, punching him from behind and knocking him unconscious. The coach allegedly raised his arms and celebrated as Falcons teammates cheered.
“The parent in me wanted to go right over to his house and take care of this,” the player's father told the paper. “But I can't do that. The video shows ... Wahl knocking my son out -- sucker punching him. I guess they were boxing or something. My son clearly has his back to him and is hunched over and he hits him and knocks him out cold.”
Over the weekend, the Juneau School District placed two unnamed coaches on leave, according to the reports. Before hanging up on the Juneau Empire, Thunder Mountain head coach Bill Byouer told the paper that despite attending the trip to Oregon he wasn't aware of the video until recently. Meanwhile, Wahl, a math teacher at nearby Floyd Dryden Middle School, reportedly didn't show up to work on Friday.
"We are deeply concerned about these allegations and the details that are emerging regarding this incident," JSD superintendent Glenn Gelbrich said in a statement. "We are concerned further that this incident went unreported for nearly nine months. The Juneau School District has higher expectations of our staff and coaches who we entrust with our students."
Perhaps most disturbing is the effect the incident has had on the Thunder Mountain freshman. Complaining of neck problems since being knocked unconscious for almost a minute, the player has checked into a mental health center run by Juneau Youth Services, where the Juneau Empire reached him for comment.
“I was scared of the coach,” he told the paper. “I didn’t want anything to happen to me, like, with my football career. I love football more than anything and want to be a football player when I grow up.”
He also told the Empire that coaches approved the boxing and that he thought Byouer was aware of the incident. The TMHS freshman didn't tell his parents for fear of repercussions, but his school work mental well-being suffered, his father told the paper.
The player explained to the Juneau Empire that he would stay at Juneau Youth Services' Miller House "for a bit to work on his coping skills, self esteem and impulse concerns."