A group of young males from a Minneapolis amateur basketball program skipped out on a chaperone before assaulting three homeless people in downtown Wichita after a tournament over the weekend, an organization spokesman said Tuesday.
In all, seven males ages 12 to 18 were in Wichita to play in the Mid America Youth Basketball championships. They play for the Urban Stars Athletics, an arm of Urban Ventures, a Minneapolis nonprofit organization that assists inner-city families in poverty.
The males threw rocks, bricks and chunks of cement, Wichita Police Department Lt. James Espinoza said Monday.
A 32-year-old man suffered injuries to his abdomen and his left arm and left leg. A 48-year-old man who tried to leave the scene suffered injuries to his head and cuts and scrapes above his left eye. A third individual on a bike tried to flee but was assaulted with rocks and knocked off his bike.
None of the victims was hospitalized.
All of the males were arrested and charged with misdemeanor assault, but not all of those charged took part in the assaults, Espinoza said. They have been released to their parents.
“All of us at Urban Ventures are dismayed at the behavior of seven Urban Stars basketball players Sunday night at an offseason tournament in Wichita,” Timothy Clark, CEO of Urban Ventures, said in an e-mailed statement. “This is an unprecedented incident for our program and we take the infractions of these players very seriously.”
The team was staying in a downtown hotel and players were out walking on city streets when the assaults occurred Sunday night. Their outing followed a team dinner, after which several team members and a friend “skipped out” on a chaperone who was doing their laundry, Clark said.
Police notified the coach after the seven were detained.
“We believe that participants, staff and volunteers need to be held accountable for their actions and the youth will go through our disciplinary process,” Clark said.
“I think some of them were more onlookers than anything else,” Espinoza said. “I think it became kind of a mob-mentality thing. It sounds like they were bothering homeless people and filming it.”
Wichita police declined to name the individuals, but Espinoza said it did indeed appear that a few of the team members were harassing homeless people and filming it.
Clark said he is proud of the Urban Stars program, which has served more than 10,000 young people in the greater Minneapolis area since 1993. Each year, more than 80 volunteer coaches and staff members mentor more than 800 participants on 25 basketball and soccer teams, fostering relationships, building character and providing children with a safe place to learn and grow, he said.
The basketball tournament, which draws teams from around the country ranging from elementary school to high-school-age players, began Thursday and ended Sunday.