A horrific scene played out in a Knoxville bar last night, as the KNOXVILLE NEWS-SENTINEL reports that several Tennessee football players are under investigation for an attack that left an off-duty police officer unconscious.
Two University of Tennessee football players were released from jail this morning, and police are questioning at least two others in connection with an early-morning bar brawl that left one police officer unconscious in the street with a head wound.
The injured and kicked officer and a bar patron were sent to the University of Tennessee Medical Center after being beaten by a group of people identified as UT football players. Authorities are withholding that patron’s name pending notification of relatives.
While football is the last thing on anyone’s mind in light of the incident, the owner of the bar, Sandy Morton, said after the melee that Tennessee football players have always had “VIP status” at her establishment.
If that status involved free admission, drinks or other financial consideration, the Tennessee football program could be cited for NCAA violations.
Early Friday morning, bar owner Morton described what happened:
It was a regular Thursday night, we always give VIP status to the (Tennessee) football players. Never had a problem with them in the past. All of a sudden they just started randomly beating up a customer. A patron.
Security intervened, got it outside. They (Tennessee football players) proceeded to beat up an off-duty officer that was a customer and that’s really all there is to it.
The off-duty officer Morton referenced was Knoxville Police Department Officer Robert Capouellez, who was found by responding police outside the bar, unconscious in the street at 1:50 a.m this morning.
Capouellez subsequently underwent hospital treatment at the University of Tennessee for a head wound.
The News-Sentinel on what led to Capouellez’s grave condition:
Officer Capouellez intervened in an attempt to stop the fight when he was attacked.
“According to witnesses, the officer was hit in the head and knocked to the ground. Once on the ground the suspect kicked the officer several times before fleeing the scene. Six individuals were identified as potential suspects. These individuals were located and detained for questioning. It appears several of these individuals may be associated with the University of Tennessee football program.
Morton had more graphic detail for the CHATTANOOGA TIMES FREE PRESS:
Bar Knoxville co-owner Sandy Morton told The Times Free Press that “seven to 10” UT football players were involved in the fight.
All they said was these several gentlemen just started beating the tar out of this one,” she said. “There was blood. There was ripped shirts. It took pretty much all my security to get them out.”
Morton said her establishment has had some “small” problems with UT football players in the past.
“We have a strict dress code, and they’ll try to cross the line as much as they can,” she said. “They’ll try to come in without ID, but we’re very strict on ID. We’re very strict on underage drinking. We’ve had small occasions where we’ve had to throw a couple of them out for underage drinking. An overage friend will buy them a drink.
“That’s the typical problems we’ve had, but we’ve never had a fight. This is our first, and it will be our last.”
Bottom line: Two officers, one off-duty, were assaulted in this case.
Derek Dooley has been provided an excellent chance to make a clear statement about his leadership of the program. If there aren’t some suspensions and expulsions from the team in the near future, the Vols hired the wrong guy.
UPDATE (6:42p ET): Looks like the Vols got their man.