Garrard man allegedly attacks high school basketball coach

January 21, 2004|JIM LOGAN

LANCASTER - The father of a former Garrard County High School basketball player could face felony assault charges after he was arrested for allegedly attacking the team's coach during a practice.

Lancaster police said Jerry Dick confronted coach Cecil Combs in the coach's office Monday morning and choked him from behind. The struggle spilled out of the office and was witnessed by members of the basketball team.

Chief Ron Lamb said Officer Tim Royce responded to a call of an "altercation" at the high school a little after 10 a.m. Dick had left the school by the time Royce arrived.

After an investigation and a discussion with County Attorney Jeff Moss, police on Monday served an arrest warrant on Dick, who was taken to Lincoln County Regional Jail. He was released that night.


Dick's son Michael was a senior forward on the team until he quit Thursday, said Ray Woolsey, superintendent of the Garrard County Board of Education.

Combs declined to be interviewed, but his wife, Darlene, who is the swim coach at GCHS, called the incident the result of "a huge misunderstanding. It's not his fault in any way."

She said Dick had choked Combs, pulled his arm behind his back and dragged him onto the gym floor. Combs, whom Lamb described as bruised around the face and neck, later went to his own doctor.

"Today he's better," Darlene Combs said Tuesday. "He was pretty rough yesterday."

Dick, who could not be reached for comment, was charged with fourth-degree assault, a misdemeanor.

But Lamb, after checking Kentucky law, said Dick should have been charged with third-degree assault, a felony. The law was changed in recent years to make assault on a school employee comparable to attacking a police officer.

"It doesn't necessarily have to happen to a basketball coach," said Woolsey. The law was intended to protect bus drivers, teachers, janitors - any school employee.

Moss, contacted this morning, said the investigation into the incident hasn't been completed and declined to comment on what charges Dick eventually might face.

Woolsey said he spoke with Combs and principal Kevin Stull on Tuesday to sort out the situation. The students who witnessed it also were interviewed.

"They were all very supportive of the coach," Woolsey said. "They felt very bad about what happened."

The players continued practicing, he said.

The team lost at Woodford Tuesday night, 69-40.

Although the details behind the altercation have not been disclosed, Woolsey suggested it could be related to unrealistic expectations.

"Parents believe their child is the best," he said. "We all want to believe our child is the next Michael Jordan or star quarterback or whatever.

"I hope that if anything can be learned from this is that kids are out there to have fun. It's not life-and-death situations."

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