JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – A Middleburg youth football coach faces multiple felony charges after several witnesses told police he punched three opposing players during a post-game brawl in New Smyrna Beach.
Larry “Shawn” Cruce, 33, of Orange Park, was released from custody following his arrest over the weekend on three counts of child abuse without great harm, Volusia County jail records show.
The incident unfolded immediately after Saturday’s game between the Middleburg Broncos and the New Smyrna Beach Cudas at the New Smyrna Beach Sports Complex.
Witnesses were split on what went down. Cudas’ coaches, players and parents suggested Cruce was the aggressor. But that’s not how the Middleburg side remembers things happening.
Attempts to reach Cruce were not successful Tuesday. No one answered the door at his home.
Walter Woodard, president of the Middleburg Athletic Association, told News4Jax that his organization will have no comment on the incident until the police investigation is completed.
DOCUMENTS: Read the redacted arrest affidavit for Larry Cruce
The episode began when several players got into an argument after the final play of the game, according to Cruce’s arrest report. Things escalated when a fight broke out on the field.
The Broncos sideline cleared as players and coaches streamed onto the field, a parent told police. At one point, she said, she saw Cruce yank a Cudas player’s helmet off and punch him in the face.
“Their team was winning so I don’t understand why they were so mad,” said Charmaine Winters, the mother of one of the players Cruce is accused of attacking.
That player told investigators he was removing his helmet when he was punched, resulting in an abrasion below his right eye.
Another mother, who told police she wished to press charges, said she too watched as Cruce punched her son during the melee, according to the arrest report.
One of the Cudas’ coaches recalled seeing Cruce punch three players, including one who was hit in the face and another who was struck in the face and throat, the report stated.
Multiple witnesses said things got so out of hand that Broncos’ players parents jumped in and physically dragged Cruce off the field.
What Cruce had to say is unclear. Much of his statement was redacted from the report.
Several witnesses from the Middleburg side said they saw coaches break up the fight. They did not, however, recall seeing any players attacked by a coach.
Alexander Beckett, the league commissioner, said there is footage of the game but noted it does not show Cruce throw a punch. He said he won’t release the video until he’s spoken with his attorney.
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