The City and Borough of Juneau plans an internal investigation of the Juneau School District after an incident in which a local football player was allegedly knocked unconscious by a coach during a boxing match at a team camp in Oregon.
City Manager Kim Kiefer told the Juneau Empire the incident is a matter of the utmost importance and the investigation would begin as soon as practicable, without interfering with an ongoing criminal investigation.
The decision came in response to a request from Juneau School District Superintendent Glenn Gelbrich, who said in a press release Tuesday that he’d asked the city to appoint an independent investigator to look into the matter.
“He called me to let me know what was happening,” Kiefer said. “I asked him what we would be able to do to assist them. We want to go through the process. Our police department is working closely with the Oregon police department. That investigation is critical to move forward and we don’t want to do anything that will jeopardize that.
“We will let them do their investigation and then follow up with the internal investigation,” she said. “We will be looking internally into the school district.”
The incident, documented in a video from a team camp in Oregon last summer, shows an incoming freshman player for Thunder Mountain High School in a boxing match against an adult that has been identified as then-assistant coach John Wahl.
The video shows Wahl punching the player’s face, rendering him defenseless. The player appears to be staggering away from the match with his arms down as Wahl approaches from behind throwing two more punches.
The final punch is an upper cut that results in the player collapsing, landing unconscious, partially on a thin mat and the flooring. The coach is shown raising his arms as others in the room cheer.
Juneau Police Sgt. Chris Burke said the video was brought to the department’s attention last Thursday by one of the Thunder Mountain administrators. Authorities have not released how the administration discovered the video.
Juneau police conducted an initial investigation and are now assisting police in Gold Beach, Ore.
The Juneau School District has placed Wahl on administrative leave pending the outcome of the investigation, along with Thunder Mountain head coach Bill Byouer, a P.E. teacher at Floyd Dryden Middle School. Wahl is a math teacher at Floyd Dryden.
The TMHS football team is in the final fund collection for its 2013 Oregon football camp. Sources on the team say coaches have been told by school administration not to comment to the press.
The Juneau Empire has asked Gelbrich if disciplinary actions will be taken even if criminal charges are not filed by the state of Oregon. Gelbrich did not return phone calls by press time.
Richard Weir, the father of the player knocked unconscious, said the family’s attorneys have advised them not to talk about the issue any further.
The story and video have drawn national attention, including The Huffington Post, Washington Post, U.S. News & World Report, Anchorage Daily News, Associated Press and ESPN and Oregon television stations.