Florida police sergeant accused of punching ref in the face at kids’ soccer game
A Florida police sergeant was arrested Tuesday after he allegedly punched a referee in the face at a children’s soccer match over the weekend, according to police.
Sgt. Michael Russell of the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office struck the ref so hard it knocked the whistle right out of his mouth, Sheriff TK Waters said during a Tuesday press conference.
Russell, who works in the homicide division, attended the game Saturday while he was off-duty when a melee erupted between players on opposing teams, Waters said. As refs tried to break up the fight, they blew their whistles to get a handle on a situation, he said.
“Sergeant Russell walked onto the field toward one of the referees and Sergeant Russell struck that referee in the face,” Waters said, adding he’s unsure why he hit the ref.
It’s unclear what age group was competing.
He’s been arrested on charges of battery of a sports official, a third-degree felony, and is no longer working as a homicide sergeant, but is still employed as the process goes through the legal system and pending an administrative review.
Russell has been with the sheriff’s office for 14 years and became a sergeant in 2019.
“It’s at a kids’ sporting event, the referees blowing the whistle as you probably hear them do in football games and anything when those kinds of things break out and for some reason he struck that official,” Waters said. “Disappointing.”