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Colt Lyerla accused of 2012 assault on Eugene street

Colt Lyerla quit the University of Oregon football team on Sunday, Oct. 6, after a tumultuous season that included missing two games — one because of a suspension for violating team rules.

But Lyerla, a talented tight end who was born in Hillsboro and attended Hillsboro High School, apparently had problems last year, too, according to a Eugene Police Department report obtained by the Hillsboro Tribune.

The police report said three men accused Lyerla of assaulting them on the street in April 2012. All three told police Lyerla appeared extremely drunk, or possibly under the influence of drugs, at the time of the incident.

The three originally intended to press charges against Lyerla for physical harassment. They changed their minds a few days later, however, and the police suspended their investigation.

The Hillsboro Tribune has been unable to reach Lyerla for comment. One of the men, Joshua Daniel Thurston, who still lives in Eugene, told the Tribune he considers the incident "no big deal."

Acting crazy

Before the investigation was suspended, a Eugene police sergeant said he would contact the UO football liaison to set up an interview with Lyerla. The report does not say whether the appointment was ever made. No one from the UO Athletic Department returned phone calls and emails to talk about whether they were contacted by police about the incident and, if so, what discussions took place with Lyerla.

According to the Eugene Police Department report, Officer Michael Ware was dispatched to the area of East 17th Avenue and Mill Street in Eugene for a reported assault at 3 a.m. on April 27, 2012. The caller told police that he and two friends had been pushed to the ground by a man they said was Lyerla, who then ran away.

Thurston told Ware that earlier in the evening, he had been at a party with the two other men, James Gregory Abernathy and Andrew Brennan Boutorwick. Thurston said Lyerla was at the same party.

Thurston said he recognized Lyerla because they had both lived in Hillsboro. Thurston also said he recognized a spider's web tattoo on one of Lyera's arms.

Thurston, Abernathy and Boutorwick left the party and went to a bar near the UO campus. On their way home from there, the men saw Lyerla again, this time near the intersection of 17th and Mill.

All three men told the officer Lyerla was behaving strangely and appeared to be drunk or stoned.

"Thurston described Lyerla as if he was stumbling around," according to the police report.

At that point, according to the report, Thurston approached Lyerla and said: "Take it easy, you have the spring game coming up." Thurston said Lyerla responded by saying, "What's your business with that?" He then allegedly pushed Thurston and the other two men to the ground with both hands.

Thurston told Ware there were other people in the area, but they all left so they would not be attacked by Lyerla. According to Thurston, after the incident Lyerla disappeared into the darkness.

The other two men confirmed Thurston's story. "Collectively, Thurston, Abernathy and Boutorwick told me Lyerla was acting 'crazy,' " according to the police report.

The three said they did not require medical help, but wanted to prosecute Lyerla for physical harassment. Although the officer said he detected the odor of alcohol coming from the three of them, they did not appear to be overly intoxicated.

'No prosecution'

After going to Eugene City Hall to write his report, Ware talked to Sgt. Larry Crompton about how to handle cases involving UO athletes. Crompton said he would contact the UO football liaison to set up an appointment with Ware and Lyerla.

The officer then looked up Lyerla on the website GoDucks.com. There, he learned Lyerla is 6-foot-5, weighs 238 pounds and graduated from Hillsboro High School. Pictures showed a tattoo similar to the one described by Thurston.

The officer contacted Thurston on May 3 for a followup interview. At that time, Thurston said he and the other two men had decided not to pursue the matter. The officer contacted the other two men by phone and they said the same thing.

"This case is suspended as no prosecution is desired," the report concluded.

Lyerla is reportedly preparing to enter next year's National Football League draft.

“I love everyone at Oregon; everyone’s on good terms, I believe,” Lyerla said in a statement from the UO Athletic Department. “Just for my own benefit, it was time to move on.”

Oregon head coach Mark Helfrich said he talked with Lyerla before the decision, but declined to offer any insight into what was said.

“I don’t want to get into particulars,” Helfrich said. “It was a very productive conversation. This is not an ill-will situation in any way, shape or form. We do wish him luck, and we’re going to do anything we can to continue to support him.”

Family troubles

The 2012 incident and mysterious circumstances surrounding Lyerla's departure from the UO football team conflict with his inspirational life story. Lyerla was born in Hillsboro but struggled emotionally after his parents divorced and his father moved out of state without telling him where he was. Drifting without direction, Lyerla found his purpose in football at Hillsboro High School, where he was a standout running back and linebacker. He was named to the U.S. Army All-American game following his senior season

Lyerla was put at tight end when he joined the Ducks. Last year, as a sophomore, he had 25 catches for 392 yards and six touchdowns while running for 77 yards and a touchdown on 13 carries, earning him honorable-mention all-Pac-12 honors. But Lyerla also had trouble making practice, and missed a pair of games this season before abruptly announcing his departure from both the team and school.

Sports reporter Stephen Alexander contributed to this news story.


No stranger to controversy

Colt Lyerla’s time at Oregon was marked not only by some solid play on the football field, but by some outrageous comments.

On March 21 of this year, he posted on his Twitter page that he believed the mass killing at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., on Dec. 14, 2012 — a horrific incident in which 20 students and six teachers were slaughtered by a man with a high-powered rifle — was a government conspiracy designed to pave the way for federal anti-gun legislation. Lyerla posted a 30-minute YouTube video that promoted his theory with the following comment: “If you have a half hour you should watch this and enlighten yourself.”

Lyerla didn’t stop there.

“The parents of the kids that supposedly died in the Sandy Hook situation are liars,” he continued.

The post was so offensive the University of Oregon released a public apology later the same day.

“Twitter posts attributed to student-athlete Colt Lyerla concerning the tragedy at Sandy Hook are insensitive and offensive, especially to those devastated by the shootings, and we have communicated as much to Colt. Though the University of Oregon Department of Athletics as well as the football program have social media expectations in place for our student-athletes, at times, personal opinions go well beyond what we expect from our students ... Our prayers and thoughts continue to be with the families of Sandy Hook.”

Doug Burkhardt