PLATTE CITY, Mo. – A Platte County High School football player was charged Tuesday with assault for allegedly ripping off another player's helmet during a game and hitting him in the head with it, giving him a concussion.
Colin W. Byrd, a 17-year-old center for Platte County, is charged with misdemeanor assault for the incident that occurred Oct. 18 during a game against Winnetonka High School, Platte County Prosecutor Eric Zahnd said.
Byrd's lawyer, Anthony Bologna, said he was still investigating the incident, which he called "very unfortunate."
"Tempers were involved, and unfortunately it sounds like somebody got hurt," Bologna said.
While the teenager told investigators he didn't intentionally hurt the other player, whom authorities have identified only as "J.R.," Bologna said he didn't want to comment on whether his client denies the allegations.
"We haven't fully investigated, and he's not in a position to make a statement at this point," Bologna said.
According to the probable cause statement, an official at the game said Byrd and J.R. were headed out of bounds on a kickoff return, and that once out of bounds, Byrd twisted J.R.'s helmet off and intentionally struck him in the head with it. Byrd was ejected from the game.
"Football players consent to physical contact and the possibility of injury every time they walk onto the field," Zahnd said. "And even conduct that draws a penalty is almost never criminal. In this case, however, we allege what happened that night was not football."
According to the probable cause statement, Byrd told investigators that J.R.'s "helmet ended up in my hand and I just went back to throw it behind me and ended up hitting him."
The probable cause statement says J.R. suffered a "significant concussion for which he is still under doctor's care." Zahnd said J.R. has not yet been able to return to school and continues to deal concussion symptoms.
"The official told investigators he had been officiating football games for more than 20 years and had never seen anything like it," Zahnd said.
Byrd, who is not in custody, faces up to a year in jail, Zahnd said.
Jason West, spokesman for the Missouri State High School Activities Association, said if Byrd is convicted he would be ineligible to play high school football until he has completed any sentencing requirements, including probation or community service.
MSHSAA was also informed this week that Boone County has been investigating possible charges against a soccer player after a fight broke out during a recent game in St. Louis, West said. Other than these two incidents, he said MSHSAA has not had to deal with high school athletes being charged with crimes for conduct during games.
West said MSHAA also has a bylaw that addresses citizenship.
"This bylaw has been put in place for a few years now, and the schools have done a pretty good job of educating their athletes, saying you need to be responsible and your actions do carry consequences, not only on the field but off the field," West said.