Two defensive starters on Washington State University’s football team are facing second-degree felony assault charges from two separate incidents this past summer in Pullman.
Pullman Police said they are recommending that WSU’s starting safety, Shalom Luani, 22, be charged with second-degree assault after he allegedly broke a man’s nose after becoming angry about his order at Domino’s Pizza on the WSU campus taking too long in the early morning hours of Aug. 24.
According to police, Luani became agitated as he was waiting for his food and refused a refund. At about that time, customers inside the store asked Luani to leave and he allegedly struck a 20-year-old WSU student with an open palm, knocking his head against the door.
Once outside, a fist fight allegedly followed and Luani reportedly broke the student’s nose.
The charges against Luani were forwarded to the Whitman County prosecutor despite WSU coach Mike Leach disputing media reports of the alleged assault.
“The initial fact-finding thing sounds like he got jumped by three people, but we’ll wait until it unfolds and see where it’s at, and we’re not going to allow it to be distraction,” Leach told the Daily News on Aug. 25.
Luani was held out of WSU’s game versus Eastern Washington University, but played Saturday at Boise State University. Leach said he was comfortable with the punishment the team had issued and he didn’t plan to issue any further penalties.
A second member of the football team – starting linebacker U’umaulauaganu’u “Logan” Tago – was arrested Monday night in Pullman after interviewing with police regarding an alleged assault that took place in June.
Police allege Tago and a group of five others told a man carrying a six-pack of beer to hand it over in the early morning hours of June 4, but when the 23-year-old man refused to give up the beer he was assaulted by the group and received a concussion. The man identified Tago as one of the attackers.
After several months of investigating police said they were able to obtain enough evidence to arrest Tago and charge him with second-degree assault and second-degree robbery.
Tago has been released by Pullman Police and the case has been forwarded to the Whitman County prosecutor.
While the two investigations are coming to a close, a third alleged assault involving WSU football players is still being investigated.
WSU student Alex Rodriguez alleged he was assaulted by a group of WSU football players in the early morning hours of July 23. Rodriguez reported to police he tried to shut down a party inside his house after partygoers began throwing fireworks inside the dwelling. Rodriguez alleged he was then attacked by football players and had his jaw was broken in two, which required reconstructive surgery. He said his friend was also assaulted when the fight broke out.
Pullman Police said the investigation is ongoing.
Speaking with reporters Tuesday after practice, Leach read from a written statement, “We’re going to let the legal system take its course. But the system has to be checked if with the number of people involved in these incidents, the only ones accused are football players. If that’s the case, then something is seriously wrong, which goes far deeper than whatever has even been alleged.”
In reference to Luani’s alleged fight outside Dominos, Leach said, “If the other guilty parties are not accused or charged, there needs to be an extensive investigation as to why. How in the world can only football parties be guilty in events depicted like this? It is irresponsible to this town, this community and everybody to have some kind of a double standard where we only focus on one demographic, one group of people and then drag their name through the newspaper with a bunch of irresponsible comments.”
Leach also questioned why only football players were accused of any wrong-doing from the alleged fight in which Rodriguez’ jaw was broken.
“Everybody’s hitting everybody. The only guys accused of doing anything are football players … Where’s everybody else? What about the other 100 people in the room? What was their role,” he said.