Oct. 6, 2004 - The Marana Broncos' Youth Football efforts to undo its past took a step backward when Emmitt "Lee" Williams, president of the team's executive board, was arrested for assaulting one of his coaches after a team practice in early September.
Williams, an officer for the Tucson Police Department for 16 years, was booked into the Pima County Jail Sept. 2 on a single count of aggravated assault for his role in the incident with Broncos' Midget coach, Rob Hamblen.
Despite upwards of 15 witnesses to the incident, seven or eight of whom gave statements to the investigating Pima County Sheriff's Deputies that night, the charge against Williams has been dropped from a felony count of aggravated assault to "simple" assault, a misdemeanor.
"In reading the case and witness accounts I have concluded that there is not sufficient evidence that a jury would return a guilty verdict on aggravated assault," said Deputy Pima County Attorney, Baird Greene.
An aggravated assault conviction is punishable by five to 15 years in prison, while a misdemeanor assault charge carries up to six-months behind bars and a $2,500 fine.
Pima County prosecutors questioned whether Hamblen was hurt in the incident and stated that didn't think they could get a conviction on aggravated assault, said Greene. As a result of being struck by Williams, Hamblen said he suffered from swelling, headaches and a "knot on the head."
After originally being placed on administrative leave, pending an internal affairs investigation, Williams has since returned to his job as patrol officer within the Field Support Bureau in TPD's Operations Division West, 1019 W. Prince Road, according to a TPD public information officer.
Hamblen said that he believes Williams would not be allowed to work if he was being investigated on felony charges and that the single count of aggravated assault was lowered to a misdemeanor so Williams could return to work.
Hamblen is familiar with the law, having graduated from the New Mexico Police Training Academy in 1980. With his background in criminal behavior, Hamblen was confident in the Pima County Attorney's office to prosecute Williams accordingly, but all that has changed with the dropping of the aggravated assault charge.
"I don't believe they really want to talk to me," said Hamblen. "The prosecutors, internal affairs, the Tucson Police Department, I don't think they want the truth."
Hamblen has filed complaints with the Tucson Police Department and the offices of the Independent Police Auditor.
Of the seven to eight witnesses who gave statements the night of the incident, none have been contacted for follow up interviews by investigators, said Hamblen and other witnesses who gave statements that evening. Hamblen was denied a copy of the police report by the sheriff's office after he requested the record under victim's rights laws, which entitle Hamblen to the documents if the release doesn't jeopardize the investigation, said the coach.
The Northwest EXPLORER was initially denied the report but was provided a copy of the arrest report after an attorney representing the newspaper through the First Amendment Coalition's Media Hotline sent a letter to the county insisting the report be released.
According to TPD Internal Affairs records, Williams has a history of discipline problems with the Tucson Police Department. Since 2000, Williams has been investigated on allegations of misconduct 11 times, five of which resulted in either reprimand or suspension. Including the Sept. 2 incident at Pack Park, Williams has been investigated by TPD internal affairs three times in 2004.
The 16-year veteran of the TPD would not comment on the allegations stemming from the Sept. 2 incident, on the advice of his attorney.
For his role in the incident with Hamblen, Williams was banned from future participation in the Tucson Youth and Spirit Federation of which the Broncos are affiliated. Since the incident, Williams' wife has resigned her position as Broncos' vice-president and his two sons also have left the team.
The TPD officer was apparently upset over remarks Hamblen allegedly made at the Broncos' practice Sept. 1, in which the 10-year coach, Hamblen, allegedly called Williams' son "dumb."
Hamblen vehemently denies ever using the disparaging remark toward Williams' son, stating their son was subject to the same "football speak" every player is subjected to on the field. After that practice Hamblen had a conversation with Williams' wife, Lila, and thought that the incident was a "dead issue," said the Hamblen.
According to the Pima County Sheriff's department's arrest report and eye-witness statements, in the moments that followed the Marana Broncos' workout, Sept. 2, at Arthur Pack Park, Rob Hamblen sat on the back of his pick up truck waiting for the last of his players to find a ride home.
He was discussing his team with assistant coach Bob Navarro, when Williams walked up.
Williams and Hamblen got into a discussion about the team's uniforms in which the jerseys did not match the pants and other-equipment related problems. After Hamblen refused to leave the back of his pickup truck to confront Williams in private, per Williams' request, the TPD officer became outraged and grabbed the sitting Hamblen by the back of the neck, the report said.
"He gave me a slight nudge to pull me off the truck and I said 'no, I've had enough,'" said Hamblen describing the incident. "I'm not interested in getting in any more dialogue here. Let's just agree to disagree and we'll take this up another day."
For Hamblen the issue was over; still, Williams persisted.
"What I saw was Rob sitting casually on his truck and Lee was standing over him in an aggressive pose," said Broncos assistant coach and witness to the incident, Greg Sportsman in an interview with the EXPLORER. "I heard Rob say two to four times 'OK, the conversation is over.'"
According to Hamblen, Williams pulled him in close and uttered what he considered to be a racially motivated epithet. When Hamblen attempted to stand and push Williams away from him, the coach and assistant Bob Navarro, who had jumped in between the two, were struck in the back with a metal folding lawn chair by Williams. With Hamblen on the ground, Williams landed two more shots to his head before being subdued by other coaches, said Hamblen.
"While I was on the ground and in no capacity to do anything," said Hamblen, who described Williams as six-foot-three and in excellent condition, "he had the chair in both his hands and he just went to chopping wood."
According to Navarro, when deputies retrieved the chair from underneath Hamblen's truck, the metal frame was noticeably bent and the chair was ruined.
To protect his father, Hamblen's son grabbed Williams by the waist. Williams then picked up the younger Hamblen, a 17-year-old assistant coach with the Broncos, by the throat and lifted him off his feet, said Hamblen's son Jeff.
Noticeably absent from the charges against Williams was the assault on his son, said Rob Hamblen. No charges were filed on Williams for assaulting Jeff Hamblen, said Greene.
Because the younger Hamblen made the initial contact with Williams, charging the TPD officer with assault is difficult.
The frustrations have gotten to Hamblen who will step down as Broncos coach after a decade with the organization.
"I can tell you after 10 years, I'm done," said Hamblen. "I've had it. I can't do it anymore. The parents and the people are out of control. I love the game, I love the kids but you risk everything you have. When's the madness going to stop? When someone gets killed?"