Police records detail several more violence allegations against Baylor football players

ByPaula Lavigne and Mark Schlabach ESPN logo
Thursday, May 19, 2016

WACO, Texas -- As Baylor University's board of regents reviews a law firm's findings about the school's response to sexual violence allegations -- many involving its football players -- Outside the Lines has obtained documents that detail largely unknown allegations of sexual assault, domestic violence and other acts of violence involving several Baylor football players.

According to the police documents, at least some Baylor officials, including coaches, knew about many of the incidents, and most players did not miss playing time for disciplinary reasons. None of the incidents has been widely reported in the media.

The Fort Worth Star-Telegram, citing sources, reported Thursday that the university's board of regents is considering the fate of head coach Art Briles, and firing him isone of its options.

In one case from 2011, an assault at an off-campus event in Waco ended with three football players being charged and Baylor and Waco police discussing the incident. Waco police, according to documents, took extraordinary steps to keep it from the public view "given the potential high-profile nature of the incident." According to a police report obtained by Outside the Lines, Waco's investigating officer asked a commander that "the case be pulled from the computer system so that only persons who had a reason to inquire about the report would be able to access it." The report was placed in a locked office.

In another case, a sexual assault allegation against a former star player has remained in Waco police's open-case status for four years, which, under Texas open records laws, effectively shields the case's details from public view. The player and the alleged victim deny any assault took place, and in a separate criminal investigation, Waco police noted that officers had dealt with the woman as part of other allegations she had made against various people and concluded she was "deceptive."

Baylor has been under scrutiny for months about how it has handled sexual assaults involving athletes. In the fall of 2015, Baylor hired Philadelphia law firm Pepper Hamilton to review its past treatment of sexual assault claims. The review has not yet been completed, but Baylor's board of regents was given a preliminary update on findings on Friday. Outside the Lines attempted to reach more than a dozen members of Baylor's board of regents about the report this week and last; none replied to multiple phone messages and emails.

When reached for comment, a Baylor spokeswoman issued a statement, which reads in part: "We are certain the actions that result from this deliberative process will yield improvements across a variety of areas that rebuild and reinforce confidence in our university. We are saddened when any student, including a student-athlete, acts in a manner inconsistent with Baylor's mission or is a victim of such behavior."

Among the developments that have drawn attention to Baylor:

  • In January, Outside the Lines reported several examples in which school officials either failed to investigate, or failed to adequately investigate, allegations of sexual violence. In many cases, officials did not provide support to those who reported assaults, in apparent violation of Title IX federal law. The story reported that former defensive end Tevin Elliott was suspected of four sexual assaults and one attempted assault from 2009 through 2012 and was found guilty of one sexual assault. Former defensive end Sam Ukwuachu was accused of sexually assaulting a Baylor soccer player in 2013 and found guilty.
  • In April, Outside the Lines reported that Baylor did not investigate a sexual assault report made against football players Tre'Von Armstead and Shamycheal Chatman for more than two years, despite the school's obligation to do so under federal law. They never faced charges.
  • Last month, former defensive end Shawn Oakman was charged with sexually assaulting a Baylor graduate student. He had been investigated in 2013 for assaulting an ex-girlfriend, who at the time declined to press charges.
  • Baylor took more than three years to comply with a federal directive to hire a full-time Title IX coordinator, which it eventually did in fall 2014.

In one of the recently discovered cases, an alleged victim who was a Baylor student told Outside the Lines that she notified football team chaplain Wes Yeary about what she had reported to Waco police in April 2014: that her boyfriend, a Bears football player, had physically assaulted her on two occasions. The woman said Briles and university president Ken Starr were also told of her allegations. The woman told Outside the Lines that neither Briles nor the university disciplined her ex-boyfriend.

The woman told Outside the Lines she didn't press criminal charges against him because she was about to graduate and didn't think the school would punish him. She said investigators from Pepper Hamilton have not contacted her.

"I'd seen other girls go through it, and nothing ever happened to the football players," she said. "It's mind-boggling to see it continue to happen. I can't understand why. I think as long as they're catching footballs and scoring touchdowns, the school won't do anything."

Despite being a private school, Baylor is required by the federal Title IX statute to investigate allegations of sexual violence thoroughly and to provide security, counseling services and academic help to those who report assaults. Part of the law's goal is to help keep victims in school.

It's unclear whether any Title IX investigations were initiated in the most recent cases Outside the Lines has uncovered. Outside the Lines discovered the cases by requesting a database of all sexual assault and assault cases over a six-year period from Waco police and matching names found in them to Baylor rosters from 2011 through 2015. A similar request was submitted to Baylor police, but that request has not been fulfilled.

In the April 2014 case, a woman told Waco police that Bears running back Devin Chafin grabbed her arm and slammed it against a car, in front of teammates and another witness. She provided photos of bruises on her arm to police. She told police that, weeks earlier, Chafin had grabbed her by the throat and slammed her against a wall, then threw her to the floor and kicked her, according to a police report.

In the police report, the officer wrote that the woman was uncertain about pressing charges, and no legal action was taken. Chafin played in nine of 13 games the following season, including the season opener.

Chafin, who was charged with marijuana possession in March and suspended by Briles immediately for spring practice and then reinstated to the team, could not be reached for comment.

In April 2012, a woman told Waco police that when she tried to break up with her boyfriend, Baylor cornerback Tyler Stephenson, he twice lured her to his apartment and then, according to the report, violently restrained her, refusing to let her leave or let her use her phone. "He then pushed me on the couch and wrestled me for my phone so that I couldn't call for help," she told police. Once outside, she said she tried again to call 911, but "he charged me and picked me up and threw me against the [exterior] apartment wall. I hit my head and immediately felt dizzy," and she screamed for help.

After pulling the woman's hair and trying to take her phone in the parking lot, Stephenson fled after three men started to approach him, according to the police report. Police spoke to a witness who saw the two fighting outside and confirmed the woman's account. An officer prepared an arrest warrant for Stephenson but closed the case when the woman did not return several phone messages.

It's unclear whether Stephenson faced any discipline from coaches: He played in two games during the 2012 season, after a prior season plagued with injuries. Outside the Lines reached Stephenson through social media, but he did not respond to a request for comment.

Although Waco police closed the case involving Stephenson when they couldn't reach the victim, they have kept active for four years a sexual assault allegation against former Baylor All-American safety Ahmad Dixon. As long as the case is open, it's shielded from public disclosure, though the Outside the Lines public records request resulted in police providing the cover page of the police report.

Dixon told Outside the Lines this week the woman made up the allegation because she was angry with him. The woman, who initially denied to Outside the Lines she was the same person who reported the incident to police, later acknowledged trying to get Dixon in trouble by filing the report. In June 2015, the woman made a domestic violence allegation against another player, and in that report, Waco police noted that she and her family have a long criminal history with the police department and that her accounts regarding Dixon and the other football player were not believable. In June 2011, there was another domestic violence case involving Dixon and the woman, the result of a 911 call made by a neighbor who said he saw Dixon pull the woman's hair and push her into a car; both Dixon and woman deny that happened.

The woman told Outside the Lines she couldn't remember details of what she told police about the alleged sexual assault; Dixon said she simply stopped responding to Waco police when they pressed her on the details of the January 2012 allegation.

Despite the apparent inactivity, a Waco police spokesman this week told Outside the Lines he could not say why the allegation against Dixon remains an active case.

Dixon said he doesn't know how his football coaches found out about the sexual assault report, but an assistant coach called him within a day of the incident happening. "They told me there wasn't much that they could do other than to tell me to go to the police station and go from there," he said. "That they couldn't do much to me about it."

One widely reported case involving Dixon happened in September 2013, when he was arrested for misdemeanor assault after he allegedly punched a man who Dixon believed had stolen his television. A grand jury declined to indict Dixon.

The incident became an issue on the field months later when Dixon was ejected from a game against TCU for a targeting hit against Horned Frogs quarterback Trevone Boykin. In his postgame news conference, TCU coach Gary Patterson referenced the arrest and the fact that Briles did not suspend Dixon.

Dixon "beats a guy up at the beginning of the season and doesn't get suspended," Patterson said. "He takes a shot, and I want him kicked out. ... I've got a guy [Dixon] who's laughing into the camera on the sideline. I've got a guy [Boykin] that can't come into the game for a play. That's not what I call class."

Dixon earned All-America honors that season. In 2014, the Dallas Cowboys took him in the seventh round of the NFL draft. He bounced to the Minnesota Vikings and Chicago Bears, where he played in five games. He is currently a free agent.

Dixon had also been part of a series of fights in May 2011 at a university-approved party. He was not arrested or charged but acknowledges hitting someone; three Baylor football players were charged.

According to police, three separate fights occurred as part of the same dispute at an off-campus Baylor recreation center. The fights involved what the five victims said were 20 to 25 football players. One was Dixon, who was accused of starting the fight by punching a fraternity member who had tried to stop him from breaking into a line dance. Police didn't question Dixon, but several of the victims told officers he was a key instigator.

Dixon told Outside the Lines that he had punched the fraternity member, something he also said he'd told Baylor's judicial affairs investigators when they looked into what happened. "When things came back to the Baylor officials, I took my fault for landing a punch at him at first," he said. But he said the man later confronted him, and that second fight, which drew several people into a brawl, was more mutually caused.

After that fight was broken up, another involving many of the same people occurred outside. In that fight, a previously uninvolved Baylor student told police he was trying to get to his car when a group of people went after him.

The student told police at least three football players were part of the group that hit him, and the attack only ended when nearby women urged the players to stop. He identified the three who hit him as defensive lineman Gary Mason, running back Isaac Williams and Stephenson. And while the athletes disagree on which of them hit him and when, statements to police and interviews conducted by Outside the Lines confirm that the student never threw a punch or made any physical advance on the other people involved.

"The young guy, I know that he had nothing to do with it. I didn't see [him] in the party or in the foyer fighting," Dixon told Outside the Lines.

The officer, who spoke to the student in the hospital, wrote in his report that the victim "had major damage to the front of his face. His bottom lip was swollen twice the size of what it would normally be as well as about three to four teeth were knocked to the point that they were loose and leaning over."

In the report, an officer wrote that the student didn't tell police what had happened when they first saw him hours after the assault. "I asked why and he ... told me that he figured because they were football players then nothing was going to be done anyway. I asked him why he thought that and he said that he has heard anecdotal stories of football players getting into altercations or disturbances and nothing ever being done."

On June 23, 2011, Waco police arrested Mason and Stephenson on charges of misdemeanor assault. Williams, who was in California, turned himself in on July 19. But the McLennan County District Attorney's Office declined to prosecute the case. Mason and Williams could not be reached for comment. The student died on Aug. 8, 2012, because of unrelated factors, and his mother declined comment on Tuesday.

According to Dixon and the police report, Williams was suspended from the football team until July. Dixon said Baylor officials made him perform community service, and coaches had him do extra running at practice and cleanup duty in the weight room as punishment.

The police report from the incident was locked in a Waco Police Department office after an officer had discussed it with Baylor police. Waco police noted in the report that a Baylor officer had provided some information about the football players and their phone numbers and had contacted them to say the school was aware of the incident and that "there were supposed to be some administrative level meetings taking place concerning it, given that it was a university-approved function."

Waco police spokesman Patrick Swanton told Outside the Lines on Tuesday that detectives can pull certain cases from public view for privacy concerns and that it has happened before in cases that have no ties to Baylor.

"Was this done specifically because this was a Baylor case and because it involved Baylor football players? I can't tell you that," he said. He said Waco police do not have a policy to contact Baylor officials when they suspect a student of involvement in a crime; he said there are times when it is appropriate, but doing so does not yield special treatment.

"If you break the law and we have probable cause to arrest you, it doesn't matter if you're a football player," Swanton said. "We're not going to give you leeway."

Producers Nicole Noren and Caitlin Stanco of ESPN's Enterprise and Investigative Unit contributed to this report.

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