“See It Now: In ‘Do-Over’ Interrogation, Berkeley Campus Cops Lead Football Strength and Conditioning Coach Damon Harrington to Answers About Ted Agu’s Sickle Cell Trait That Avoid ‘Not Telling the Truth or Being Deceptive’,” March 13, 2019, https://concussioninc.net/?p=13696
“Ted Agu’s ‘Pre-Existing Medical Condition Was in First Sentence of Berkeley Campus Police Incident Report — New Find From University of California’s 141-Page Collection of Cover-Up Documents,” March 19, 2019, https://concussioninc.net/?p=13712
“See It Now: Incriminating Berkeley Campus Cop’s Report Refers to Ted Agu’s ‘Pre-Existing Medical Condition’. Plus, Bonus Document Probably Not in the Secret 141-Page Police Binder: EMS Report Specifically Citing Sickle Cell Trait,” March 20, 2019, https://concussioninc.net/?p=13717
“Team Doctor’s Borderline-Perjurious 2014 Deposition Testimony in Ted Agu Family’s Wrongful Death Lawsuit Against University of California Underlies the UC Berkeley Football Death Cover-Up,” March 20, 2019, https://concussioninc.net/?p=13720
“See It Now: First Responders to 911 Call For Ted Agu Recorded, ‘PATIENT HAS HISTORY OF SICKLE CELL’”, March 20, 2019, https://concussioninc.net/?p=13726
Complete headline links to our series on the Ted Agu death cover-up (beginning November 2013 — before Agu’s death): https://concussioninc.net/?p=10877
by Irvin Muchnick
The record of events around the Berkeley campus hill, the Bowles parking lot, and the north tunnel near Memorial Stadium — where Ted Agu drew his last labored breaths before perishing in an exertional attack associated with sickle cell trait on February 7, 2014 — indicate that there are only two candidates for the person who told the paramedics, as documented in the Berkeley Fire Department’s Emergency Medical Services report, that “PATIENT HAS HISTORY OF SICKLE CELL.”
One candidate is Robbie Jackson, the head athletic trainer. The other is Mike Jones, one of Jackson’s assistants. When the first responders arrived, Jackson and Jones were tending to the stricken Agu by performing CPR and chest compressions, to no avail.
Though Jackson — when deposed in the Agu family civil lawsuit that wound up settling for $4.75 million — did not directly say he concluded it was a sickling event, the transcript of the deposition suggests that he was the one who told the first responders about Agu’s “history of sickle cell.”
Even more important are signs that either Jackson flat-out knew or seriously suspected that the event was what the medical literature calls ECAST: exertional collapse associated with sickle cell trait.
Jackson happens to be, to my knowledge, the only Cal Athletics staffer who would wind up paying a professional price for losing Agu; everyone else either “fell upward” or, at worst, moved laterally. For example, the athletic director, Sandy Barbour, would get forced out later in 2014 for unrelated reasons, and she moved to the same position at Penn State.
The head football coach, Sonny Dykes, got rewarded with a multimillion-dollar raise and contract extension in the spring of 2016, even as the university was completing negotiations for the settlement payout to Agu’s parents. Dykes would get fired at the end of that year, again for unrelated reasons — his team wasn’t winning enough games and the expensively retrofitted Memorial Stadium had swaths of empty seats, and the Cal administration had grown weary of Dykes’s annual offseason machinations to leak news of job offers or interest at other schools. Dykes is now the head coach at Southern Methodist.
Damon Harrington, the strength and conditioning assistant who designed and directed the maniacal drill that killed Agu — and more generally, presided over, with Dykes’s blessing, a toxic program that consciously advertised “culture change” from classic conditioning support to the injection of “toughness” — got swept out of his Cal job in the routine housecleaning for a new head coach. Harrington now has the same post at Grambling State.
Team physician Dr. Casey Batten’s career movement was a doozy. Depositions in the Agu civil lawsuit, plus Concussion Inc.’s analysis of internal Cal documents produced during my current California Public Records Act lawsuit against the UC Regents, establish that Batten was parroting public relations-generated talking points to fend off public questions about Agu and sickle cell trait in the days following the death. At the same time, Batten was concealing the known clinical fact that Agu was a sickle cell trait carrier as he called the Alameda County medical examiner, Dr. Thomas Beaver, and successfully lobbied for an inaccurate snap finding of generic heart failure as the cause of death. In short, Batten was the point person, whether acting on his own or with institutional coordination, in the cover-up of the circumstances of Agu’s death. Batten is now a team physician for the Los Angeles Rams out of the Kerlan-Jobe Institute of Southern California’s Cedars-Sinai Medical Center.
Post-Agu, only Robbie Jackson found himself out of the football industry. (He was last reported to be in medical equipment sales.) The reason may be that Agu was the second lost student-athlete on Jackson’s career watch; also the second from ECAST, which had claimed the life of Ereck Plancher at the University of Central Florida in 2008 when Jackson was on the training staff there under head football coach George O’Leary. In his Agu lawsuit deposition, Jackson was asked about the UCF sickling episode, but the UC lawyer defending him directed him not to answer.
Jackson did speak, however, to the Agu 911 call:
“Q. […] And you called 9-1-1, or you directed someone to call 9-1-1?
A. No. I called 9-1-1.
Q. Okay. What did you tell them?
A. For lack of better words, ‘Athlete down,’ our location, where we were. We need an ambulance. AED [automatic external defibrillator] is on the premises. We’re going to get an AED — expect rhabdomyolysis, and that’s really all that I can really remember.”
According to medical experts, “expect rhabdomyolysis” is a major clue that Jackson knew this was ECAST, not a coronary episode. “Rhabdo,” a syndrome involving the death of muscle fibers and their potentially fatal release into the bloodstream, is associated with sickling, not with heart failure.