A youth football coach in Florida who already had a lengthy police record is charged with multiple felonies after several witnesses told authorities he punched three opposing players during a post-game brawl in New Smyrna Beach.
Larry “Shawn” Cruce, 33, was released from custody following his arrest over the weekend on three counts of child abuse without great harm, Jacksonville’s WJXT reports.
According to WJXT, the incident occurred after Saturday’s youth football game between the Middleburg Broncos and the New Smyrna Beach Cudas.
WJXT reports that witnesses were split on what went down, as New Smyrna coaches, players and parents suggested Cruce was the aggressor. But that’s not how the Middleburg side remembers things happening.
Sporty Thigpen, a mother of one of the players who was at the game, told WJXT that she never saw Cruce hit anyone during the brawl, but she did recall seeing a parent of an opposing player attack Cruce.
“We did not see coach hit any children or parents or anything,” she said. “We did see a parent hit him.”
According to court records obtained by WJXT, Cruce has a history of arrests. In 2003, he was arrested on a misdemeanor charge of trespassing on school grounds. In 2004, he was arrested on a lewd and lascivious molestation charge, which was changed to a misdemeanor charge of contributing to the delinquency of a minor.
In 2005, he faced grand theft and criminal mischief charges. Then in 2007, he faced charges of grand theft and burglary. Duval County court records also show Cruce was found guilty of burglary stemming from a 2004 arrest.
“You have your kids going to a place where you’re supposed to trust adults, and you have someone who is trying to go after other kids? Not OK,” Michelle Lorditch, who recently pulled her child out of the Middleburg Athletic Association, told WJXT. “If I had done my research, I would have gone somewhere else. Do your research before you stick your kid anywhere.”
Walter Woodard, president of the Middleburg Athletic Association, told WJXT that his organization will have no comment on the incident until the police investigation is completed. He also declined to comment on Cruce’s record.
At one point, a parent told police, she saw Cruce yank an opposing player’s helmet off and punch him in the face.
According to the arrest report, another mother told police she wished to press charges after watching as Cruce punched her son during the melee.
Multiple witnesses told police things got so out of hand that Broncos’ players parents jumped in and physically dragged Cruce off the field.