Cal Football Death Cover-Up, Pt. 3: Berkeley Campus Police Helped Conditioning Coach Damon Harrington Give a More Plausible Non-Answer About Ted Agu Sickle Cell Trait ‘Rumors’ — Also Withheld From Sheriff and Coroner Many Pages of Related Documents

Published December 12th, 2019, Uncategorized

SERIES TO DATE

“‘Newsletter of Intent,’ Covering College Sports Reform, Has New Article About Our Work and Public Records Act Litigation in Cal’s Ted Agu Football Death Cover-Up,” December 3, https://concussioninc.net/?p=14100

“What Do I Mean By the ‘Cover-Up’ in the 2014 Death of University of California Football’s Ted Agu? As We Approach a Key Public Records Act Hearing on Sweeping Secrecy Claims, Let’s Count the Ways,” December 5, https://concussioninc.net/?p=14103

“Cal Football Death Cover-Up, Pt. 1: University Kept Salient Details of Player-on-Teammate Criminal Assault Under Wraps — Both Before and After Ted Agu Perished in the Same Conditioning Program,” December 8, https://concussioninc.net/?p=14105

“Cal Football Death Cover-Up, Pt. 2: Team Physician Dr. Casey Batten Lobbied Coroner For Ted Agu Autopsy Finding That Ignored Sickle Cell Trait,” December 11, https://concussioninc.net/?p=14119

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by Irvin Muchnick

The previous installment of this series mentioned Berkeley campus police officer Stephanie Martinez’s reference to the “pre-existing medical condition” of the stricken Cal Bears football player to whom she was summoned in the early morning of February 7, 2014. It’s just the start of evidence pointing to the University of California’s cover-up in the Ted Agu conditioning drill death. Next Friday, December 20, a hearing is scheduled in Alameda County Superior Court on this reporter’s latest motion, in my Public Records Act case against the UC Regents, for internal documents reflecting what some of the institution’s top officials knew and when they knew it.

In addition to the patrol officer’s report, there is the contemporaneous account of Scott Anderson, University of Oklahoma head athletic trainer and college football conditioning reform activist. Anderson learned that worried Cal Athletics staffers were saying to each other from the get-go, “It’s a sickle cell death” — not, as football team physician Dr. Casey Batten would manipulate the coroner to initially find, a coronary episode.

And there’s the Emergency Medical Services report of the first response to Agu, including the notation “PATIENT HAS HISTORY OF SICKLE CELL.” (See https://concussioninc.net/?p=13726; facsimile of document: http://muchnick.net/aguEMS.pdf.)

And there’s athletic trainer Robbie Jackson’s recollection, in his later deposition testimony in the Agu family’s wrongful death lawsuit against the university, which would settle for $4.75 million, that he told the arriving paramedics, “expect rhabdomyolysis.” This condition, the breakdown into the bloodstream of overexerted muscle fibers, is associated with an exertional sickling collapse, not with a coronary. (See https://concussioninc.net/?p=13728.)

But in addition to the overwhelming evidence of a global institutional cover-up is that of specific malfeasance by the Berkeley campus police department in enabling the cover-up. This additional evidence takes two forms.

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1. The Damon Harrington do-over interview.

Detective Harry Bennigson interviewed football strength and conditioning coach Harrington, who had designed and directed the extreme conditioning dream in which Agu perished, at the campus police station four days after the death. “There’s rumors” about “sickle cell anemia [sic],” the transcript shows Bennigson saying.

The various things Harrington said in response in their ensuing disjointed dialogue apparently didn’t satisfy Lieutenant Marc DeCoulode, who called Harrington and Bennigson back to the station a few hours later.

“[Y]ou can say you were aware that he had medical conditions but you don’t wanna say specifically what they were,” one of the officers tells Harrington (the transcript is unclear as to which officer). The main point: “[W]hat we don’t wanna do is we don’t wanna have it appear that you’re either not telling the truth or that you’re being deceptive.” (See https://concussioninc.net/?p=13691; https://concussioninc.net/?p=13696; facsimile of document: http://muchnick.net/harringtonpolicetranscript.pdf.)

Two weeks after this, on February 24, 2014, Detective Bennigson interviewed assistant athletic trainer Michael Jones. According to Bennigson’s report, “I asked JONES if he was aware of any medical condition with AGU. JONES told me that he knew of AGU’s medical status but he did not know if he was allowed to discuss it.” (See https://concussioninc.net/?p=13752.)

The Harrington and Jones interviews are chapters of a 141-page binder of police reports that Judge Jeffrey S. Brand allowed to remain secret in this case, on grounds that they were part of a “criminal investigation” and hence exempt from disclosure under the Public Records Act. Concussion Inc. has independently acquired and published portions of the binder.

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2. Selective sharing of pertinent records with the Alameda County sheriff.

On July 16, 2015, Sheriff’s Office Lieutenant Riddic Bowers was deposed by the Agu family’s lawyer in their civil wrongful death lawsuit. Bowers testified to his task of gathering information for the medical examiner’s investigation. Bowers confirmed that the sum of the materials given to the sheriff was two separate faxes totaling 29 pages. (See https://concussioninc.net/?p=11120.)

We now know that the full subsequently labeled “binder” of Agu-related police reports totals 141 pages.

This 112-page discrepancy requires a mild disclaimer. At this point, I know that the last chapter of the 141-page binder was the medical examiner’s autopsy report — a document that, obviously, didn’t yet exist at the time Lieutenant Bowers was coordinating information with the campus police. So we need to be careful about alleging one-to-one correspondence in page counts of what were, to some extent, apples-and-oranges sets of documents. What’s clear, however, is that the campus police transmissions to the sheriff were minimalist and inadequate. In light of everything else we know about Lieutenant DeCoulode’s actions, the inadequacy of the production may very well have been willful.

Specifically — and as reflected in the original and inaccurate cause-of-death finding of the coroner, Dr. Thomas Beaver — it’s evident that no university office, including the campus police, clued in the sheriff to the fact that Ted Agu had been screened for sickle cell trait and found to be a carrier.

NEXT: For its own one-and-done 2016 story on the imminent Ted Agu family lawsuit settlement, the San Francisco Chronicle most likely had in its possession many or most of Concussion Inc.’s now-voluminous documentations of a University of California cover-up — yet chose to sit on it.

Comprehensive headline links to our six years of Ted Agu death coverage: https://concussioninc.net/?p=10877