SPOKANE, Wash. — The Pullman Police Department recommended Friday that assault charges be filed against two more Washington State University football players, bringing to four the number in legal trouble.
Police Chief Gary Jenkins will ask the Whitman County prosecutor to bring charges of second-degree assault, a felony, against defensive tackle Robert Barker and defensive lineman Toso Fehoko.
Jenkins said the charges would relate to the players’ actions during a large brawl that erupted on July 23 that left several people injured.
Up to 100 people were at the location where the brawl occurred, and police interviewed 61 witnesses, including 22 WSU football players, Jenkins said.
Police believe Barber knocked one person unconscious during the brawl, and that Fehoko broke another person’s jaw, he said.
“Our department is not targeting football players,” Jenkins said at a press conference in Pullman.
On Monday, police arrested one Washington State player, Logan Tago, on suspicion of assault, and recommended that assault charges be filed against another player, Shalom Luani, in a separate incident.
Football coach Mike Leach on Tuesday complained that Pullman police seemed to be focusing on football players in three recent incidents that led to assault investigations. Leach said he’s concerned the only people being accused of crimes in the incidents are football players.
Jenkins noted that his department is also recommending charges be brought against two other people who are not athletes for their actions during the brawl.
Cellphone video captured images of both players at the brawl, Jenkins said.
Jenkins cautioned that his department only makes recommendations, and it is up to the prosecutor to decide if any charges are filed.
The players were booked into the police station on Friday morning and then released, which Jenkins said was standard procedure for people who are not considered flight risks or a danger to the community.
Washington State athletic director Bill Moos said it is up to Leach if the athletes will play against Idaho on Saturday.
Moos also noted that WSU has more than 450 student-athletes and only a handful face legal problems.
“Don’t judge the athletic program by a couple of incidents like this,” he said.
On Thursday, leaders of WSU met with Jenkins to discuss recent incidents involving Cougar football players, with both sides saying the meeting was productive. Washington State President Kirk Schulz and Moos met with Jenkins in Schulz’s office.
Washington State students and staff dominate Pullman, a town of about 30,000 people. Students make up two-thirds of the population, Jenkins said.
Leach’s team has struggled this season, losing to Eastern Washington and Boise State in the first two games. On Monday, Leach lashed out at his players for not being tough enough.
The Cougars host Idaho (1-1) on Saturday.
Jenkins said the police department has had fewer incidents involving athletes since Leach arrived in Pullman prior to the 2012 season.
“I have seen significant improvement in student-athlete behavior in the community,” Jenkins said. “The recent incidents are anomalies.”