AKRON, Ohio (WJW) — A high school football game ends with a large fight, police deploying pepper spray and an already grieving family demanding answers. The family of an Akron player who drowned over the summer believes some opposing team members were mocking their son’s death.
The investigation is a joint probe between the Akron police and the Akron school district, although police admit, depending on their findings, it is most likely a school “code of conduct” issue.
In the final seconds of Friday night’s game between Akron’s Ellet High versus Firestone High, some of the Firestone Falcons appear to celebrate their victory. But attorney Allen Tittle, who represents the family of 14-year-old Toshaye Pope, believes the antics had a more sinister meaning.
“When I saw it, my jaw dropped,” said Tittle.
Pope drowned in July, during a football outing at Melanie Lake near Uniontown with his Ellet High teammates, an outing his parents say they were unaware of.
After Friday’s game, the family received videos of the game’s ending, which appear to show some Firestone players making swimming motions on the field.
“When they saw the videos and the videos were sent to them, it was a big punch in the gut … the family wasn’t expecting it and it’s, it’s tearing open wounds that shouldn’t be torn open,” said Tittle.
Akron police say they are investigating whether there was taunting from both teams and whether Ellet players were “verbally” mocking the death of 17-year-old Ethan Liming, a Firestone player, who was beaten to death outside of the I-Promise School in Akron in June.
The tension led to a huge fight involving players, students and spectators from both teams near the locker rooms. Officers providing security were forced to use pepper spray to disperse the crowd.
“No child’s death, ’cause both of these were kids, should ever be made fun of or mocked,” Tittle said.
The school district released a statement, “Akron Public Schools strongly condemns the abhorrent and unacceptable behavior. The district will pursue disciplinary actions against any individuals who are found to have participated in this large altercation. We continue working to bring communities together in upholding safe and respectful environments for students and families.”
“The game of football is supposed to be used to help these players because young adults, teach them, help teach them what it is to be a good teacher and something’s falling apart,” said Tittle.
Nobody was arrested, but the incident remains under investigation.
Meanwhile, the attorney for Toshaye Pope says the family is close to filing court papers in their findings about why he was allegedly on a team outing, without his parents’ knowledge when he drowned.