Last week, Ooltewah High School in Tennessee canceled its basketball season nearly two weeks after a violent incident at an out-of-town tournament in Gatlinburg resulted in three players being charged with the aggravated rape and assault of their 15-year-old freshman teammate.
Now, as the investigation into the assault — which has been referred to as “not an isolated incident” and part of an “ongoing pattern” of hazing and violence on the team — continues, the Hamilton County district attorney announced on Thursday that Head Coach Andre Montgomery, Assistant Coach Karl Williams, and Athletic Director Jesse Nayadley will all be charged for failing to report instances of child abuse.
The details of the alleged assault on December 21 are heinous. A 15-year-old was reportedly sodomized by a wooden pool cue, which caused his colon and bladder to rupture. Coach Montgomery initially took him to a nearby hospital, but according to a family member, he was released without a proper exam. The following day, the boy collapsed and was taken by ambulance to the University of Tennessee Medical Center in Knoxville, where he underwent emergency surgery and spent the remaining eight days in recovery. He currently has to wear a colostomy bag and catheter.
Three players — two seniors and one sophomore — were charged for that attack in Sevier County, which is where it took place. Two of them are currently being held in the Sevier County Juvenile Facility, while one has been granted a bond.
However, on Thursday, Hamilton County detective Mickey Rountree wrote in his affidavit that during the stay in Gatlinburg, a total of four freshmen basketball players were subjected to attacks that included “being struck with pool cues” and “apparent sexual assault.” The DA’s office said Hamilton County — which is where OHS is located — intends to bring additional charges against the players responsible.
Beyond the confirmation that there were three other victims in the Gatlinburg attack, Rountree’s report is significant because he found that Montgomery, Williams, and Nayadley made no attempt to notify the Department of Children’s Services or law enforcement officers in either Sevier County or Hamilton County of the allegations once they were made aware of them. Under Tennessee’s mandatory reporting law, that is a crime.
Even after the freshmen was rushed to the hospital for emergency surgery and the coaches were made aware of the allegations, the team remained in Gatlinburg and completed the tournament. It also competed in another tournament days later.
Superintendent Rick Smith, who said last week that there was “no evidence any adult acted improperly,” has now suspended all three men without pay until the investigation is complete.
The Chattanoogan has shared a plethora of letters from readers familiar with Ooltewah High Schools, many of which echo allegations of an ongoing culture of violence at Ooltewah and a particularly toxic, enabling environment on the basketball team. The DA’s office said on Thursday that it is “investigating allegations of an ingrained culture of violence among the football and basketball teams at OHS reaching back several years.”
At a public forum on Thursday held by the Hamilton County Board of Education, parents and students from across the district shared stories about the bullying and assault they have witnessed at Ooltewah schools. One woman, Tonya McBryar, said that her son was beaten so severely on an Ooltewah school bus four years ago that he now has brain damage.
“But, I never imagined this would happen,” she said. “I want answers. I want results. And I want change.”