JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — A Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office homicide detective was arrested Tuesday morning after the sheriff said he hit a referee at a children’s soccer game.
Sgt. Michael Russell is facing a charge of battery on a sports official, which is a third-degree felony, Jacksonville Sheriff T.K. Waters said.
Waters said the JSO Integrity Unit began investigating Russell this weekend “when the agency was notified of a potential criminal allegation.”
Russell attended the soccer game “plain clothes and in an non-official capacity” on Saturday, Waters said. According to Russell’s arrest report, the incident happened at Losco Regional Park.
A fight broke out during the game among the players on the teams and the referees were trying to break the fight up.
The fight also “led to several parents coming onto the field,” the arrest report said.
The referees continuously blew their whistles, which they are trained to do, Waters said. The victim said Russell told him to stop, the arrest report said.
Russell walked on to the field and struck one of the referees in the face, knocking the whistle out of his mouth, Waters said.
The victim did not know Russell personally, but was given his name by the team manager, the arrest report said.
On Sunday, an officer obtained cellphone video of the incident. The arrest report said “the victim and other officials are seen trying to clear the field. The victim is blowing loudly on his whistle and appears to be ushering people from the field when the suspect (redacted).”
On Monday, Russell provided a written statement of what happened and the report said the video “completely contradicts this statement.”
“It’s really confusing to me. It’s at a kids’ sporting event, the referee is blowing the whistle as we probably hear them do in football games, in anything, when those kind of things break out. For some reason, he struck that official. Disappointing,” Waters said when asked why Russell did this.
Investigators are working with prosecutors at the State Attorney’s Office on the pending criminal case against Russell.
Russell has been with JSO since 2008 and he became a sergeant in 2019.
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Waters said Russell is currently still employed with JSO, but he is defrocked and is no longer with the Homicide Unit.
“We are a society of laws and no one is above those laws,” Waters said of the arrest.
This is the second JSO employee arrested in 2023, Waters said.
Watch Waters’ announcement of Russell’s arrest below: