Men dispute reports of inciting a near riot
The men say they were frustrated over bad calls made by referees.
By LAURE CIOFFI
VINDICATOR PENNSYLVANIA STAFF
NEW CASTLE, Pa. -- Three men accused of inciting a near riot at a youth football game say reports of what happened are greatly exaggerated.
"It wasn't close to a near riot," said Fred Smith, 33, of South Jefferson Street.
The men, instead, contend that police overreacted to a heated argument that ended the game.
Two of the men, Smith and Corey Eggleston, 35, say they were arrested while trying to talk to the Tri-County Youth Football League president about some bad calls made by officials.
"I felt my kid was being cheated. It's been boiling up each week," Eggleston said of what he characterized as bad calls by game officials.
A third man, Nelek Mitchell, 30, of Denver Avenue was arrested across the street. Police claim he was mouthing off about a police dog.
The three men were charged with disorderly conduct and failure to disperse, both misdemeanors. Smith was also charged with resisting arrest and obstructing the administration of law, also misdemeanors.
The men were released on their own recognizance pending a preliminary hearing Oct. 4 in Lawrence County Central Court.
All three have learned through press reports that they are banned for life from the Tri-County Youth Football League.
The game between the New Castle Central Hurricanes and the Laurel Spartans ended six minutes early when Eggleston, who describes himself as the team president and not a coach, walked onto the field to get his son, Corey Jr., after what he said was a bad call.
Eggleston said tempers have been flaring all year after a series of bad calls he believes were aimed at his son and the team.
"I was tired of my son making touchdowns and being called back [by penalties]. I went on the football field and told him to get his stuff," he said.
Eggleston said he left Taggart Stadium, but had to return when his 11-year-old son came outside without all of his equipment.
Eggleston said his frustration mounted as he saw the league president near the gate talking to police.
Police were apparently called after the game ended and some footballs were thrown at referees from the sidelines. Eggleston said a home videotape taken by a parent shows the footballs were thrown by some of the youngsters and not coaches.
"I was hollering and cussing at [the league president], and the New Castle police officer told me to shut up," he said.
When Eggleston refused, the officer grabbed him, Eggleston said.
Smith saw his friend being grabbed by police and asked what was going on. Police contend Smith grabbed the officer who was trying to handcuff Eggleston, but Smith said it was a security guard who grabbed the officer to point out that Eggleston's arm had bumps on it.
Eggleston said he has lupus and is in need of a kidney transplant. He said the bumps in his arm are three stints used during kidney dialysis.
Smith and Eggleston said they were taken to the squad car when they heard a third person had been arrested.
Mitchell said he was arrested across the street from the stadium where he was waiting with friends for his girlfriend to pick him up.
Other police officers called to assist were outside with police dog Chuck and drove past the group of men. One man yelled, "Get that punk a-- K-9 out of here," according to police reports.
"I don't know why they blamed me for something I didn't do," Mitchell said.
Mitchell added that he did not take part in the problems on the field earlier. Mitchell said he coached the 9- and 10-year-olds that day and remained on the field with the medical bag during the next game. He said he shook hands with the other players and left.
He also said there were bad calls by referees during Saturday's game and previous games.
Despite the bad calls and being banned from the league, Eggleston said he is encouraging his son to continue playing for the New Castle Central Hurricanes.
"There are three games left and I want him to finish out the season," he said.
Eggleston was a standout football player for the New Castle Red Hurricanes and is a member of the Lawrence County Sports Hall of Fame.