Off sides

Butte College football players accused of party assault

Shawn Conway is one of the Butte College football players who allegedly showed up uninvited to a party and started a fight. He was identified through Facebook. The aftermath included multiple holes in the walls of the alleged victim’s home.

Shawn Conway is one of the Butte College football players who allegedly showed up uninvited to a party and started a fight. He was identified through Facebook. The aftermath included multiple holes in the walls of the alleged victim’s home.

photo by kyle delmar

Living down a reputation:
Butte College footballers have committed violent crimes in the past. In 1997 two drunken Roadrunner players beat a man named Lloyd Green to death in an alley in a south campus neighborhood. Three years earlier a Butte College football player shot a teammate during a dispute, leaving the victim paralyzed from the waist down.

In the early morning hours of April 8, a group of uninvited Butte College football players entered a house party near the Chico State University campus and allegedly assaulted several young men and women.

That’s according to a 20-year-old student and resident of the house, who also said responding Chico police officers refused to take reports from him and others who were visibly hurt and in need of medical attention.

The man requested his name not be used out of fear for his personal safety, and said he knows other victims who are afraid to speak out. He and his parents met with this reporter in the house and provided photos taken directly after the fracas, showing bruises on his face and a bloody nose.

Butte College Athletic Director Craig Rigsbee acknowledges that some of the players were present at the party, and he said his office has looked into the situation after being contacted by some concerned parents. However, no criminal charges have been filed, nor have any disciplinary actions been taken.

The man who contacted the CN&R said that partygoers recognized some of the players and were able to identify more using their Facebook profiles. He provided a list of eight names and identified the primary aggressor—and his alleged assailant—as wide receiver Shawn Conway. (Conway did not respond to a request for an interview.)

The unnamed man was holding a private get-together at his house attended by about 40 people when the players showed up shortly after midnight.

“They were going through my roommate’s room, so they were asked to leave,” he said. “One of them was compliant and said they’d get out. Then, out of nowhere, [Conway] punched my friend.”

The man said he intervened and was then attacked by Conway, who allegedly punched him in the face at least 10 times. “Then he threw me onto the couch and tried to strangle me,” said the man, pointing to bloodstains.

He said chaos erupted as soon as Conway hit him, with other players attacking male and female partygoers. He said when friends pulled Conway off him and a female friend put herself between them, Conway allegedly threatened to hit her, too.

A lull in the violence was short lived: “He [Conway] started yelling in my face, ‘Do you know who the fuck I am?’ I responded, ‘I don’t give a shit who you are, just get out,’ and that’s when he got me once more in the face.”

Police received a call reporting the fight at 12:33 a.m. from a separate alleged victim who said he was hiding in a closet. The man who contacted the CN&R said four officers—two mounted police who stayed outside and two others who came in—responded.

“They came in immediately after we finally pushed these guys out. I went up to the first officer, I was very bloody, and he told me I needed to leave the house. I told him I lived here and tried to tell him what happened, and he told me to stay back. After they pushed everyone out, they just left. I and several others tried to give reports to the officers outside, but they wouldn’t talk to us.

“One girl had been stomped on, and at least a dozen people got hurt. There was a lot of blood, bruises and scrapes,” he said of the aftermath.

In addition to bloodstains on the couch and walls, two holes—one of which, the source claimed, resulted from a partygoer’s head being shoved through a wall by a football player—were left in walls at the residence.

Mounted officers Abigail Madden and Scott Ruppel were the first to respond to the scene. “The fight was clear by the time we got there, but the party was jumping off really good,” Madden said April 10. “I certainly didn’t see anyone covered in blood.”

Madden admitted she didn’t recall all the details of the visit: “That’s prime time in a really busy area,” she said, adding she did remember some people at the party were “extremely intoxicated.”

The closet caller made a second call to police at 1:57 p.m., long after the fight had broken up and the party disbanded, to request further contact and to tell police they could identify the assailants.

The CN&R source acknowledges some of his guests were intoxicated, but contends he and the caller were completely sober. The source and his parents contacted police again the following day, and he was visited by an officer on April 11.

According to published reports, Conway has seen trouble in the past. A 2010 article in The Oakland Press notes a disciplinary suspension threatened his athletic career (“I did something really, really stupid and had to pay the price,” he told that publication). He was unable to accept an offer to attend the University of Michigan due to academic disqualification.

Rigsbee, Butte’s athletic director, said that he and head football coach Jeff Jordan have interviewed the players and are taking the matter very seriously.

“Anything that’s alleged, of course we’ll pursue it vigorously and try to find out what happened,” Rigsbee said. “But we have to do due process and make sure every side is heard and the proof is there.”

Rigsbee said these investigations are also important to protect their athletes from false accusations, and that players gave a different report of the events: “We talked to all the kids that we thought were there,” he said, “There was no direct identification of who the aggressor was. One side said one thing and the other said something different, and it was back and forth. In this particular instance, I think there was a bunch of good kids on both sides, some tempers flared, and the situation just didn’t need to go to that extent.”

Rigsbee said that Butte athletes sign an agreement to follow a code of honor and conduct.

“Every kid who signs it understands it’s a privilege and not a right to be an athlete, and they can be dismissed from the team at any time,” Rigsbee explained.

“There’s no question we’ve had violations of the code in the past, and we’ve acted on them accordingly. But as a general rule, in the seven years I’ve been athletic director, our kids have been very well-behaved,” he said.

As for this incident, unless contacted by the police, Rigsbee said his department has done its part.

The mother of the man who contacted the CN&R said she is awaiting police follow-up and is considering retaining a lawyer and dispatching letters to the District Attorney’s Office and Butte College athletics and administration. The officer in charge of the case was unavailable for comment at press time, but Lt. Linda Dye said the status is noted as “further investigation required.”