Chris Singleton / The Houma Courier
The parent of an Ellender High School boys basketball player involved in a postgame fight with a South Terrebonne High player said she is upset at the handling of the altercation by school officials.
Lateacha Johnson, the mother of Ellender player Justin Johnson, said she is still looking for answers as to why her son was allegedly attacked by South Terrebonne player Jermaine Washington following Friday's game, which Ellender won 95-45.
Washington, 17, was charged with second-degree battery for knocking Justin Johnson, 19, unconscious while both teams were doing their postgame handshakes at the Bourg campus, authorities and school officials said.
If convicted, Washington could face up to five years in jail. He was freed after posting bond, authorities said.
Lateacha Johnson and Ellender school officials claimed the alleged attack on Justin Johnson, a senior football and basketball player, was unprovoked because he didn't do or say anything to start the fight. He was sent to Terrebonne General Medical Center for treatment of a lip injury and concussion, his mother said.
Lateacha Johnson said she is upset about South Terrebonne's initial reaction to the fight, and she questioned why there were no Terrebonne Parish sheriff's deputies at the game to provide security. She said she will pursue legal charges against Washington and South Terrebonne.
Because the two teams are rivals, Lateacha Johnson said, she doesn't understand why the school didn't have police officers at the game.
“If there were police there, my child probably wouldn't have got beat like he got beat,” Lateacha Johnson said. “South Terrebonne coaches never came out to check on my child ... it was very unprofessional.”
Washington couldn't be reached for comment.
South Terrebonne Principal Dane Voisin said he isn't allowed to comment on the school's disciplinary action against Washington, but he mentioned that words exchanged between the two players during and after the game led to the fight.
“It had nothing to do with the two schools,” Voisin said. “It was an incident between two students. It was an unfortunate situation. I'm disappointed and upset that it happened, and I hope everyone moves on.”
Voisin said there is no policy requiring police attendance at any school function like sporting events, but he said school administrators, the athletic director and other coaches are always present to provide supervision. The only time they have police on hand is at large sporting events such as football games.
Terrebonne Sheriff Jerry Larpenter confirmed there were no officers at the game.
“If the school's policy says that they don't have to have an officer there, they don't have to have one,” Larpenter said. “It's up to the school to request an officer.”
Ellender High Athletic Director Terry Washington said there should've been police at the game, which he said is usually a common practice at sporting events to protect the players, coaches and fans.
“For a game of that magnitude with two rival teams, there should have been some security there,” Terry Washington said. “We make certain to have security at all times at our home games. Safety comes first and foremost for the kids.”
Voisin said South Terrebonne had to report the details of the fight to Louisiana High School Athletic Association.
When contacted Thursday, Kenny Henderson, Louisiana High School Athletic Association commissioner, said the association investigated the fight and doesn't plan on making a ruling since South Terrebonne handled the situation “in an appropriate manner.”
Justin Johnson's grandmother, Diane Singleton, said she saw Washington tackle and throw punches at her grandson's face. After seeing the extent of the injuries, she said another Ellender parent called for an ambulance to take the player to the hospital. She said the ambulance never arrived. After a 45-minute wait, they drove the injured player to the hospital.
Diane Singleton said her grandson's injuries were so bad that “he didn't remember anything or know where he was.”
“Justin was knocked out,” Singleton said. “He hit his head on the court, and he bled all over the court. He was covered in blood for no reason, and the South Terrebonne coach (David Neal) never came back out to check on him. I think that was wrong. If that happened to somebody else's child, I would feel the same way.”
Neal, a longtime Terrebonne Parish basketball coach, declined to comment.
Justin Johnson said he doesn't remember everything that happened after the fight, and he is still trying to figure out why he was attacked.
“I didn't talk back or mention anything to him,” Justin Johnson said. “He got a technical foul during the game for saying he was going to beat me up after the game. I didn't even see him coming after the game.”
Justin Johnson, who also suffered a knee injury while playing in the game, said he is still recovering from his injuries.
He didn't play in two regular season games against Vandebilt Catholic and Assumption this week, and Ellender coach Cornell Scott said his status is uncertain for the upcoming LHSAA playoffs, which start next week.
Justin Johnson, who recently signed a scholarship to play football at Arkansas Baptist University next year, attended South Terrebonne before transferring to Ellender during his junior year.
Since transferring, Lateacha Johnson said there has been rising conflicts between her son and his former school.
“They've been feuding with Justin ever since he left South Terrebonne,” Lateacha Johnson said. “If I would've known that South Terrebonne would've treated my child the way they did (Friday) night, I would've never let him (go) to the game. It just makes me think this was something South Terrebonne planned against my child. I'm going to investigate everything.”
Washington said he was disappointed about the fight, and he hopes it doesn't happen again.
“It's unfortunate,” Washington said. “There is no room in the game or in sports for something like that. Rivals are rivals, but at the end of the day, you don't take that and go that route. I don't understand it. We talk about the rivalry, but we want to keep it clean. That part of it, we've got to clean up.”