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Hamline U Basketball Player Charged with Felony Assault

Posted at: 01/02/2013 10:32 PM
Updated at: 01/03/2013 10:10 AM
By: Mark Albert

A Hamline University basketball player has been charged with a felony and jailed in Spokane, Wash., accused of punching the female friend of a teammate so hard she had to undergo emergency surgery for a broken jaw.

Eugene Lawrence III, a first-year forward from New Orleans, made his first court appearance Wednesday afternoon in Spokane County Superior Court.

Lawrence, 18, is charged with second-degree assault, a class B felony in Washington State, which is punishable by a maximum of 10 years in prison and a $20,000 fine. A defendant without a criminal record who was convicted of such a felony, though, would likely receive far less.

During the court appearance, a judge set a $5,000 bond with several geographical conditions. Assistant Hamline University men's basketball coach Chris Hopkins also appeared in court and told the judge he would escort Lawrence back to St. Paul, were he to be released.  

5 EYEWITNESS NEWS had a crew from affiliate KXLY in the courtroom for the hearing.

According to Steve Bray, his daughter Kayla Bray was visiting her grandparents in Spokane for the New Year's holiday. The Bray family lives in Portland, Ore.

Bray said his 20 year-old daughter happened to run into Tyler Pannell, a Hamline player also from Portland, who was in Spokane with the team for a game against Whitworth University.

Bray gave the player a ride back to the team hotel, where she then spent time on New Year's Eve with the other players. At some point, the elder Bray said, his daughter got into a verbal altercation with Lawrence, whom she had not previously met. Lawrence is accused of punching Bray, knocking her to the floor.

When Bray asked other team members for help in getting to the hospital, they refused, Steve Bray said, citing the team curfew. Her face covered with blood and unable to drive, Kayla ended up calling 911 herself, her father said.

"I'm very mad," Steve Bray said in a phone interview, on his way to Lawrence's court hearing.

Bray was released from the hospital Wednesday evening with a broken jaw, a fractured eye socket, and a metal plate in her jaw. The family planned to return to Portland soon.

Within three hours of 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS asking a Hamline university spokesperson about Lawrence, his picture and name were erased from the team's online roster.

Head coach Nelson Whitmore, approached by a reporter Wednesday evening at Macalester College in St. Paul before the team's first game since the Spokane incident, said simply, "I don't have any comment on it. Thank you."

The university declined to make anyone available for an on-camera interview, but did release a statement to 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS which said: "We are very concerned for the welfare of Kayla Bray and regret that this incident happened. Eugene Lawrence has been placed on an interim suspension from the basketball team and the University, and we are fully looking into the incident. We have reached out to the Bray family and shared with them our concern and support for Kayla."

Lawrence's next court appearance in Spokane is scheduled for later this month.