Wyoming guard Luke Martinez, one of the key pieces in the Cowboys' sudden surge into NCAA tournament contention, has missed a few games in January with an undisclosed injury to his right ring finger. This week, Wyoming coach Larry Shyatt announced Martinez had been suspended indefinitely for the same reasons he injured that finger: He got into a bar fight.
Were that the entire story, we might expect Martinez back when he healed, or after a brief suspension and a lot of wind sprints, whichever came first. Unfortunately, that is not the entire story. According to the Casper Star-Tribune, which obtained a police affidavit of probable cause, Martinez admitted to causing "serious bodily injury to the man he kicked in the face during a Dec. 30 fight outside of the Buckhorn Bar in downtown Laramie." On Sunday, police arrested Martinez on a charge of aggravated battery and assault. From Ben Frederickson's report:
The affidavit cites multiple witnesses, including a male victim, who claim Martinez kicked the victim in the face after Wyoming sophomore forward Derek Cooke Jr. knocked the victim out with a punch. Police state that Martinez also "did verbally admit that he caused serious bodily injury to the victim knowingly or recklessly under circumstances manifesting extreme indifference to human life."
A witness told police that Cooke hit the victim with his fist and then Martinez kicked the victim in the head "like it was a football." A second witness, also according to the affidavit, said Martinez, who broke his hand in the altercation and hasn't played since, took "a running start" and kicked the unconscious victim in the head. The victim, the witness said, was "laying down in the street."
The victim's brother told officials the victim suffered "multiple fractures of the lower mandible" as a result of the fight and had to have his jaw wired shut.
As always, because someone is charged with something does not mean they are guilty, even if we tend to sometimes forget that when talking about athletes and misbehavior. If the details in the affidavit of probable cause are true, then it is hard to imagine how Wyoming could allow Martinez back onto the team this season.
I hate to say that, because it sounds judgmental. But a bar fight is one thing. Protecting your teammates is one thing. Popping someone in the nose for violating general human standards of decency is one thing (one thing our society should probably allow for more of, so as to prevent habitual line-steppers from stepping over said lines).
But violently kicking an unconscious man while he lays prone on the floor, to the point where he has to have his jaw wired shut? That's a level or two above good old fashioned hell-raising. That's just dangerous. Even if Shyatt -- who is having something like a dream season in his second year with the Pokes, and has allowed star forward Leonard Washington a couple of second chances of his own -- wants Martinez back, the optics may be too ugly to allow it.