Baylor Football Players Subject of Police Reports Uncovered by ESPN

May 18, 2016

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An Outside the Lines investigation into the sexual assault crisis at Baylor uncovered additional incidents involving members of the Bears football team, including some situations where the cases were shielded from public view by Waco police.  

Paula Lavigne and Mark Schlabach of ESPN reported Wednesday the previously unreported cases included other forms of violence, including domestic abuse, along with sexual assault. The investigation found most of the players involved didn’t end up missing any playing time despite Baylor officials and coaches knowing about the alleged actions.

One example of the records being hidden occurred in 2011. The report notes an investigating officer took “extraordinary steps” to keep an off-campus assault quiet by asking “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.”

Another incident has remained under “open-case status” for the past four years, a category that keeps the details away from public view. The status hasn’t changed despite the player and the alleged victim since denying any assault took place.

Waco police spokesman Patrick Swanton explained to Outside the Lines that cases can be kept away from public view for privacy concerns. He noted that occurs regardless of the surrounding circumstances and that, even if the police contact Baylor, no preferential treatment is given in those situations.

“Was this done specifically because this was a Baylor case and because it involved Baylor football players? I can’t tell you that,” Swanton said. “If you break the law and we have probable cause to arrest you, it doesn’t matter if you’re a football player. We’re not going to give you leeway.”

The Outside the Lines report takes a deeper dive into a wide range of alleged incidents from recent years involving Devin Chafin, Tyler Stephenson, Ahmad Dixon, Gary Mason and Isaac Williams. The records were discovered by ESPN after filing a request for all sexual assault and assault cases handled by Waco police over a six-year period and then matching names with the team’s football roster.

In another case with an unnamed football player, a woman stated she told team chaplain Wes Yeary about two instances of assault against her by the player and that Baylor football coach Art Briles and university president Ken Starr were also made aware of the situation. No discipline was handed down.

“I’d seen other girls go through it, and nothing ever happened to the football players,” the woman told OTL. “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.”

A Baylor spokeswoman released a statement to ESPN in response to the latest findings:

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.

Bruce Tomaso of the Dallas Morning News previously provided a look at the string of incidents that landed Baylor in the national spotlight because of the scandal, including the list of players who have faced legal action as a result of the assaults.

The Associated Press reported last Friday that Baylor had received the results of a probe by the Pepper Hamilton law firm into the school’s handling of the past cases. It’s unclear whether the report will eventually be made public.

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