Authorities allege Pirates senior hit foe with helmet during game
During his 10-year tenure, Platte County Prosecutor Eric Zahnd said his office has never prosecuted a case stemming from the on-field actions of high school student-athletes during an athletic contest. Until now. On Tuesday, Zahnd announced he had filed an assault charge against a Platte County High School football player who is accused of assaulting an opposing player during the course of a game. PCHS senior Colin W. Byrd, 17, of Kansas City, was charged Tuesday with misdemeanor assault. Authorities allege Byrd intentionally hit a Winnetonka High School football player in the head with a helmet during an Oct. 18 game at Pirates Stadium in Platte City. The alleged victim, whose name is being withheld because he is a minor, has reportedly suffered a significant injury resulting in a concussion and remains under a doctor’s care. Zahnd said the victim has not been cleared by the doctor to return to school due to ongoing nausea, dizziness, memory loss and other symptoms. “Football players consent to physical contact and the possibility of injury every time they walk onto the field,” Zahnd said. “Clearly, there are many things which happen during the course of a football game that if they happened on the street, could be considered assault. Normally those things happen during the course of the game and should not result in criminal charges. In this case, however, we allege what happened that night was not football.” According to court documents, during the Oct. 18 game at Pirates Stadium in Platte City between Platte County and Winnetonka, Byrd assaulted the victim by allegedly ripping off the victim’s helmet and striking him in the head with it. The alleged assault occurred after a play in which Byrd and the victim ended up out of bounds. Byrd’s conduct drew a flag and he was ejected from the game. He was also suspended from playing in Platte County’s final two games, though it is unclear whether the suspensions were a result of Missouri State High School Activities Association (MSHSAA) guidelines, Platte County School District policies or both. On Oct. 22, the alleged victim and his father contacted the Platte City Police Department, where they filed a complaint against Byrd. In a probable cause statement filed by PCPD Lt. Al DeValkenaere, a high school game official and a North Kansas City School District administrator who both saw the play told authorities they believed Byrd intentionally hit the victim with the helmet. The official told investigators he had been officiating football games for more than 20 years and had never seen anything like it. The school official said he believed Byrd had the opportunity to simply drop the helmet, but appeared to be “angry and frustrated” when he intentionally struck the victim with the helmet. The probable cause statement also offered details from an interview with Colin Byrd, who voluntarily responded to PCPD Oct. 24 with his father, local attorney Chris Byrd, and attorney Anthony Sicola. During the course of the interview, Colin Byrd said he and the alleged victim were involved in a few altercations in the game previous to the alleged assault. He said that during the play in which the victim was injured, “His helmet ended up in my hand and I just went to throw it behind me and ended up hitting him.” He also said he did not realize until later that he had hit the victim in the head and he refuted the witnesses’ assertions that he hit the victim intentionally. The probable cause statement said that copies of game video showing the incident were obtained by PCPD and that during the play in question Colin Byrd can be seen grabbing both the facemask and the back of the victim’s helmet as they go out of bounds. Byrd can then be seen rolling to his feet with the victim’s helmet in his hand, bringing the helmet behind his back and then forward. The probable cause statement then states that, “Although the view of (the victim) is blocked by others standing on the sideline, it appears that he is still on the ground. For the same reasons the video does not show the impact of the helmet, but the helmet can be seen briefly… and appears to be heading toward (the victim’s) upper body.” Zahnd said if Byrd is convicted of the Class A misdemeanor, he could receive probation or face a maximum of one year in the Platte County Jail. He said a summons will be issued to Byrd and a court date will be set at that time.