GRIFFITH — A Hammond High School coach is among four people facing charges in connection with a fight that broke out Monday at a basketball game and spilled onto the court in the final 6.3 seconds of play.
A Hammond High coach, Robert Pogue, 29, of Hammond, has been charged with disorderly conduct, a Class B misdemeanor, according to Griffith Police Cmdr. Keith Martin.
Pogue is accused of swinging at Jamar Freeman, 25, of Calumet Park, a spectator in the bleachers, after Freeman allegedly threatened to smack a basketball player and then “pushed or chest-bumped” Pogue.
Pogue works with the Hammond High School boys freshmen basketball team and is in his fifth year as a coach.
Jamar Freeman, along with Shaunaria Watson, 25 and Joshua Freeman, 24, both of Chicago, have also been charged with the same class B misdemeanor, Martin said.
According to police, the three spectators involved in the altercation were seated three rows behind the Hammond team’s bench and had been heckling the referees and team throughout the game.
What sparked the fight
Near the end of the game, a Hammond basketball player made a derogatory comment about a Griffith player known to Watson, Joshua and Jamar Freeman, referring to the player as “trash,” Martin said in a news release.
That is when one of the spectators threatened to “come down” and smack the Hammond player “in the mouth,” the release stated, prompting Pogue to step between Freeman and his players.
After Jamar Freeman initiated the fight, Pogue responded by swinging at him. Joshua Freeman then stood up and swung at Pogue as the three stumbled down the bleachers and onto the gym floor, police said.
Jamar and Joshua Freeman continued to strike Pogue as he laid on the gym floor. Watson kicked Pogue several times, Martin said, as several other people appeared to step in to try to stop the fight.
After the two men stepped away from Pogue, Pogue allegedly re-engaged the fight and “had to be held back by other bystanders,” Martin said.
The Freemans left the school building prior to police arrival.
At one point during the fight, a woman was pushed without apparent provocation by Watson. Another spectator not charged received a minor head injury. Video footage shows she was inadvertently struck by a juvenile in the area during the fight.
Pogue was injured but refused additional medical treatment after being checked by medics.
Officials called the game and sent players to the locker rooms.
Suspended without pay
Asked Wednesday night if Pogue will be allowed to continue coaching, Hammond High Head Coach Larry Moore Jr. declined to comment, adding that he “wasn’t coaching that game” and did not see what happened firsthand.
“This is the first I’ve heard of the charges,” Moore Jr. said.
He declined to comment on Pogue’s involvement.
Hammond schools Superintendent Walter Watkins said earlier this week Pogue is not a teacher.
"He has been suspended with pay until the investigation is complete. We are still investigating," Watkins said.
"The coach went to address the parent face-to-face and more words were exchanged and it became physical. I have been told the students displayed themselves like gentlemen and displayed great sportsmanship, and did not leave the bench," Watkins added.
Hammond High School’s Athletic Director Larry Moore Sr. did not return a phone call requesting comment.
Police said charges were filed with the Lake County Prosecutor's office on Wednesday after officers were able to review surveillance footage of the incident and speak with several witnesses.
The Times has filed a public records request with the Griffith Police Department seeking video footage.