By Kelly Lyell, The (Fort Collins) Coloradoan
Colorado State coach Jim McElwain said Monday he believed it was necessary to take immediate action against three football players linked to a weekend "beating" incident but that any additional disciplinary measures will not be taken until police complete their investigation.
McElwain suspended linebacker Mike Orakpo and defensive ends Nordly Capi and Colton Paulhaus indefinitely Saturday, soon after learning of their reported involvement in the beating of four Colorado State freshmen students.
"Know this, that the harshest form that we could do is to indefinitely suspend until all the facts are out there," McElwain told reporters at a news conference Monday just before putting his team through a practice. "... This is unacceptable in this program, it's unacceptable to this university, and until we get all the facts, we're totally cooperating in every way, shape or form that we can, so we get what really is out."
McElwain, speaking to a smaller group of reporters after practice, wouldn't answer a question about whether or not other players on his team were involved in what Fort Collins police are calling "a disturbance that occurred at approximately 11:45 p.m." Friday "near the intersection of LaPorte Avenue and Shields Street."
Four male freshmen, who identified themselves to the Coloradoan on Sunday to discuss the incident, were injured and taken by ambulance to Poudre Valley Hospital. Their injuries included black eyes that were almost swollen shut, cuts, bruises, chipped teeth and a shoeprint stamped on the back of the most severely beaten victim.
"It wasn't much of a fight, it was basically just a beating," John "J.D" Haley said. "I've never seen anyone so mad, so violent. The kid was on a rampage."
Haley said Fort Collins police asked him not to specifically identify the attackers in public while the criminal investigation is ongoing. Police spokesperson Rita Davis confirmed Monday afternoon that the investigation into the incident is continuing and no charges have been filed, and no arrests have been made.
Witnesses told police seven males riding in a white SUV stopped and confronted the victims soon after police had broken up a large party in the area. The occupants of the SUV had been shouting homophobic insults as they drove by, Haley said. Donny Gocha responded with the same homophobic insult, Haley said, prompting the SUV to stop and the occupants to pile out and start beating Gocha. Haley said he and two others suffered their injuries trying to protect Gocha.
McElwain said he first learned of the incident Saturday from "some things that came across the desk that alerted us." After looking into it further and meeting with the three players to hear their version of what took place, he decided he needed to take immediate action.
The suspensions were first announced Saturday afternoon but were not linked, at the time, to the Friday night incident reported Saturday in a news release by Fort Collins police.
"I will not stand for what is going on," McElwain said Monday. "Now, at the same time, understand this: Until the investigation comes out, we don't exactly know all the circumstances, and yet I feel with the severity of them, the best thing for us to do is go ahead and indefinitely suspend, which is the strongest thing we can do at this point until they're able to tell their side."
Additional punishment from him could include being kicked off the team.
Colorado State spokesman Mike Hooker said a separate investigation is being conducted by the university, which has a student-conduct policy and judicial review policy that will take into account what police discover in their investigation.
"In a situation like this, the behavior that has been described is absolutely unacceptable. It's not a part of what we believe should be happening among our students, and we take it extremely seriously. If we find that our students were engaging in this type of behavior, the consequences will be severe and could certainly include removal from the university."
Media policies put in place by McElwain prohibit reporters from contacting players on his team without going through the school's sports information office and further restricts which players can talk to the media and when. Colorado State officials declined requests to make the three players available for interviews.
Orakpo, on his Twitter account Monday, posted a Bible verse, Matthew 5:11, attributed to Jesus that reads: "Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account."
Orakpo, a junior from Houston and the younger brother of Washington Redskins defensive end Brian Orakpo, was the team's third-leading tackler last fall. Capi, a junior from Ocoee, Fla., was the Mountain West Conference leader in sacks. Paulhus, a junior from Granite Bay, Calif., played primarily on special teams.
Although McElwain didn't recruit any of the three players who were suspended, he did accept responsibility for their actions as the head of the school's football program.
"I'm responsible for this program," McElwain said. "I took this job, these players that are here. I know that we didn't recruit them, and yet, at the same time, understand this: I'm responsible. I'm here to lead them in the direction we need to go and understand the principles and values of this organization and how we're going to act, how we're going to represent and how we're going to be for this fine institution and this university."
Orakpo and Capi were involved in a separate fight involving people leaving a large off-campus party March 17. In that incident, a group of people who had been kicked out of the party broke a taillight on Capi's car on their way out, according to Fort Collins police. The football players got in Capi's car and pursued a car the others had left in, and within a few blocks, both cars pulled over and a fight ensued, during which Colorado State football player Ty Sambrailo was stabbed in the shoulder, an injury that required 14 staples to close. Orakpo and Capi suffered minor cuts in that incident.
McElwain did not discipline any of the players involved in the March 17 incident but reserved the right to do so after police complete their investigation. He said Monday he still has not seen the police report on that incident.
The coach, running his own program for the first time after 28 years as an assistant, said he's concerned these incidents will unfairly paint a negative picture of his entire program, a concern player Trey Cassidy had addressed in a Facebook posting Saturday in which he apologized "for what my teammates have done to three students." Cassidy later removed the posts and told the Coloradoan he had been told to refer all interview requests to the school's athletics department.
"We have a lot of really good guys on this team, a lot of great representatives of Colorado State," McElwain said. "Good students, good people, and I just don't want them to get lost in this whole deal."
The (Fort Collins) Coloradoan