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U of O officials aware of Lyerla accusations

Athletic officials at the University of Oregon were aware of accusations that football player Colt Lyerla appeared drunk or stoned and assaulted three men on a Eugene street in April 2012.

Craig Pintens, the university's senior associate athletic director for marketing and public relations, says team officials talked to Lyerla about the alleged incident. Pintens would not disclose whether Lyerla was disciplined for it, saying that is an internal department matter.

No charges were filed against Lyerla. The Portland Tribune obtained a Eugene Police Department report detailing the incident through a public records request.

The university announced that Lyerla quit the team and left the school on Oct. 6. His departure follows his missing two games this season, including one because of a suspension for violating team rules.

But Pintens confirms team officials knew Lyerla, a talented tight end who was born in Hillsboro and attended Hillsboro High School, had problems last year, too. According to the report, the three men originally intended to prosecute Lyerla for physical harassment. They changed their minds a few days later, however, and the police suspended their investigation.

The 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 now considers the incident “no big deal.”

Acting crazy

According to the 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 advised that he and two friends had been pushed to the ground by 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 Lyerla’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,” the report indicated.

At that point, according to the report, Thurston approached Lyerla and said: “Take it easy, you have the Spring Game coming up.” 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.’ He was obviously intoxicated and possibly 'high' on drugs," the report reads.

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.

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.

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

Ware 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.

Team support continues

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 football coach Mark Helfrich said he talked with Lyerla before the decision was made, 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.”

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 story.