NORMAN, Okla. -- Nebraska graduate assistant coach Angus McClure testified Friday that he was surprised to see members of an Oklahoma spirit group with shotguns near the Sooners' football field and thought they might have been drunk.
McClure's testimony came in the fifth day of the trial of former Nebraska player Darren DeLone, who is accused of felony aggravated assault and battery on a member of that spirit group, the Ruf/Neks. The group has ceremonial shotguns without live ammunition and accompany a covered wagon on to the field.
Prosecutors say DeLone purposely slammed into Adam Merritt, 19, during drills prior to the Cornhuskers' game at Oklahoma on Nov. 13, 2004.
Merritt and a dentist who examined him have testified that the Oklahoma freshman lost one of his front teeth and fractured another in the collision.
McClure and two players, Mike Erickson and Le Kevin Smith, testified Friday that the hit was an accident that occurred while DeLone and defensive end Wali Muhammad were tangled up in a full-speed blocking drill.
McClure said he warned the Ruf/Neks they were too close to the action.
"I told them multiple times to back up," he said. "It was definitely dangerous to them."
He said he thought they were intoxicated but that he smelled only gunpowder from their ceremonial shotguns and not any scent of alcohol.
McClure and Erickson testified DeLone pushed Muhammad into Merritt. Smith said he wasn't sure if it was DeLone or Muhammad that hit Merritt, but he said it did not seem intentional.
"To me it just seemed like an accident," Smith testified. "You're talking about two guys weighing 250 to 300 pounds moving at full speed."
DeLone's attorney, Garvin Isaacs, questioned OU Police Department officer Mike Robinson about his interview of Merritt at a Norman hospital where he was being treated for his injuries. Isaacs suggested Robinson "contaminated" Merritt by telling him
before the interview that he was the victim of an assault and that DeLone was a suspect.
On a taped recording of Robinson's interview with Merritt, Robinson can be heard saying a Nebraska football player "sucker punched" Merritt.
When Isaacs asked Robinson if he made the comments in Merritt's presence, Robinson responded, "I was not wanting to be in his vicinity." Robinson did say he made the remarks in a doorway to Merritt's hospital room.
Jurors on Friday also heard from Dr. Thomas Dudley, an Edmond dentist who testified that Merritt's injuries may have been the result of being hit in the face with one of the shotguns the Ruf/Neks carried. Dudley never examined Merritt but based his opinion on dental records and photographs taken of Merritt's injuries.
OU season ticket-holder Louis Bryzynski testified that he watched from the north end zone as DeLone and Muhammad engaged in a blocking drill and then moved toward the group of Ruf/Neks who were standing just off the field. Bryzynski said he saw Merritt looking up into the stands when he was hit from behind and went face-first into the brick wall surrounding the field. Other witnesses have testified that Merritt was hit in the face and fell backward into the wall.
Former Oklahoma head coach John Blake, now a Nebraska assistant coach, testified Thursday that DeLone pushed Muhammad into Merritt during a drill.
DeLone has pleaded innocent. The charge carries a possible punishment of up to five years in prison.
Testimony is expected to continue Monday morning. Cleveland County District Judge Michael C. Hetherington Jr. said he hopes testimony will wrap up Monday and that the case will be presented to the jury for deliberations on Tuesday morning.