By Ryan S. Clark
FARGO – Fargo Force defenseman Neal Goff, one of three players involved in a police investigation, was suspended indefinitely Friday by the United States Hockey League.
Goff, 18, along with Des Moines Buccaneers players Kevin Irwin and Tanner Karty, were involved in an incident stemming from Goff using a racial epithet.
Urbandale (Iowa) police officer Jeff Casey said Friday that Goff and his 79-year-old grandfather were assaulted by three Buccaneers players in the stands immediately after a game ended last Saturday.
Goff was assaulted a day after using an in-game racial epithet toward Des Moines’ Trent Samuels-Thomas, who is black. Casey said Goff admitted to police he used a racial epithet.
Police and league officials confirmed Goff called Samuels-Thomas a “monkey.”
“He (Goff) was sitting with his family up in the stands and some Buccaneers players sat down in front of him,” Casey said. “They assaulted them after the game.”
Casey said Goff and his grandfather suffered “relatively minor injuries” and were treated at the scene.
Goff didn’t play in Saturday’s game and watched in the stands with his family.
Casey said coaches from both teams were told about the incident between Goff and Samuels-Thomas and took out all the players they thought were involved for the following game.
He said there were at least three Buccaneers players sitting in front of Goff and his family.
The Buccaneers had three players scratched from the game, according to USHL records. They were Irwin, Karty and Justin Hussar.
Irwin, 18, is committed to Ohio State while Hussar, 19, is committed to Merrimack College.
When the game ended, the Buccaneers players assaulted Goff and his grandfather, Casey said.
“I am not sure if they assaulted him on purpose or if the grandfather was trying to break it up,” Casey said. “I don’t want to speculate on it.”
Casey said no arrests have been made.
If charges are filed, the Des Moines players could be charged with simple assault, which is a misdemeanor along with a $300 fine.
Or the players could be charged with assault causing injury, which is a serious misdemeanor and is an indictable offense.
A serious misdemeanor carries a maximum of a one-year jail term and a mandatory fine up to $1,500, according to the Iowa’s penal codes.
Casey also said there’s a chance it could be downgraded to disorderly conduct.
Because there are multiple parties in multiple states involved, he said, it is the reason why there could be a delay in charges if any are filed.
“It’s a logistical nightmare,” Casey said. “Sounds like if need be, people are going to have to make road trips back here. It could be a long, drawn out and painful process. If it takes money to pay for gas and time spent down here, we do have victim reparation in our courts so they could seek compensation for it.”
Werger said the players were suspended indefinitely because of the police investigation. He added that he’s also never seen the league indefinitely suspend players.
“The reason it is indefinite right now is because we awaiting the outcome of the police investigation,” he said from the league office in Chicago. “It would be unfair to determine any sort of games for punishment until the outcome of the investigation.”
Werger said late Wednesday night the league office knew the police investigation could take time.
Goff ’s suspension was announced three hours before the Force’s game against the Tri-City Storm in Kearney, Neb.
The Force entered Friday in third place in the Western Conference. As for Goff, he was starting to come into his own with the team, having played in 13 of the team’s 16 games since Jan. 21.
He’s played in 28 games for the Force this season, scoring four points.
Goff, who is enrolled at Fargo South, is in his first season with the Force, having played high school hockey the last three seasons at Stillwater (Minn.) He was coached all three years by former NHL star Phil Housley.
Sports | March 17, 2012 | Page D1, D2
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