'Gassers' added to practice; Gilpin died

Updated: March 3, 2009, 7:40 PM ET
Associated Press

LOUISVILLE, Ky. -- A high school football coach behaved recklessly by adding sprints to the end of practice on a blistering hot day, a prosecutor said, explaining for the first time why he was charged with reckless homicide in a player's death.

Jefferson County Commonwealth Attorney David Stengel cited the 50-yard sprints known as "gassers" -- as well as Pleasure Ridge Park coach David Jason Stinson's admonition that the players would run until someone quit -- in a routine court document filed late Monday.

"The players claim they ran more gassers that day than any other day of practice," Stengel wrote in the document, which accompanied about 1,000 pages of statements to police about the 94-degree day that sophomore offensive lineman Max Gilpin died. "Coach Stinson repeatedly denied the players water breaks during gassers."

Stinson has pleaded not guilty to reckless homicide in an unusual case of a coach being charged criminally in the death of a player. The 15-year-old Gilpin died three days after collapsing at the end of an Aug. 20 practice. The causes were listed as septic shock, multiple organ failure and heat stroke.

Stinson's attorney, Alex Dathorne, said he was still reviewing the documents, but Gilpin had the same four water breaks as the rest of the team during practice.

"Some of the allegations that were made early on ... I'm not so sure will hold up," Dathorne said.

A call to Todd Thompson, an attorney for Gilpin's mother, was not immediately returned. Gilpin's parents have filed a civil suit accusing Stinson, five assistant coaches and school officials of negligence in Gilpin's death.

The new court filing included statements Louisville police took from Stinson, 89 football players, nine coaches and 25 other witnesses, including parents at a soccer game on an adjacent field.

Players and coaches described a routine practice for much of the afternoon -- watching film, stretching and positional drills.

But players told police that after about two hours on the field, Stinson, a former college offensive lineman, became upset over goofing off and a "lack of hustle."

Players said Stinson gave the team a water break just before the gassers started, then held back on water until practice was done. Stengel said the gassers lasted between 30 minutes and an hour, although players gave differing accounts of the length, generally between 20 and 30 minutes.

Junior defensive back Justin Agrue told a detective that Gilpin never asked for water during the gassers.

"But, I was right there next to uh, Stinson and Max the whole time," Agrue said. "And, during that practice, and uh, it we really. If we really needed water Stinson would've let us have water. He wouldn't've denied his water to anybody."

But players and parents at the soccer game told police Stinson berated and threatened players during the sprints.

"That the coach was yelling that they were gonna continue to run until somebody stopped," said Kathleen Smith of Louisville, who was watching the soccer game. "That you know, who was gonna be the sacrificial lamb."

Stinson told police that players are told if they're going to quit, they should do it before the sprints start.

"I said if anybody wants to leave now, if anybody wants to quit, feel free to leave now," Stinson said in his statement. "Feel free to leave now. Just drop your equipment under the tree and walk out the gate."

The sprints ended when two players, senior wide receiver David Englert and sophomore split end Chris Bryant, quit. Both were later allowed back on the team.

Stinson said he didn't see the 6-foot-2, 220-pound Gilpin collapse and addressed the team under a shade tree at the end of practice. Sophomore running back Aaron Shelton said Stinson called him and four others back from the water fountain after the sprints.

"Well, he had walked over 'ere and he was like, uh, that, 'You guys, uh, you guys, uh, walked away from the team,'" Shelton said. "'Bunch of cowards. Uh, y'all shouldn't be doin' that.'"


Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press

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