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Referee Jailed for Attacking Coach

February 14, 2001

ATLANTA (AP) _ A youth basketball referee, apparently angry that his calls had been criticized, slashed a coach with a knife after a game between 7- and 8-year-olds, sending youngsters and parents scurrying in fear, authorities say.

Coach Jerry Sweeney needed 17 stitches and referee Oliver Wood was jailed on charges of aggravated assault after the attack Tuesday night at an elementary school gym in Fayetteville, an Atlanta suburb.

Sweeney, 48, told police that Wood, a 46-year-old retiree, grabbed him by the throat and cut his arm, leaving a 3-inch gash. Sweeney said he had stepped in the referee’s way as Wood lunged for another coach.

``If I hadn’t gotten in the way, there’s no telling what could have happened. I was close enough he didn’t get me that bad,″ Sweeney told WSB Radio in Atlanta.

Wood told police he was acting in self-defense, saying he was berated by both coaches throughout the game and that Sweeney had tried to choke him.

``It was the weirdest thing I’ve ever seen,″ said Mike Peaden, whose 7-year-old son was on the winning team, coached by Sweeney. ``This guy just snapped and started slashing the coach. It was horrific.″

After parents pulled the men apart, Wood left the gym and threw a pocketknife with a 3-inch blade onto the playground, police said. Wood returned to the gym before police arrived and was arrested.

According to the National Association of Sports Officials, the last recorded time in which an official was the aggressor in an attack was last summer in Jackson, Miss., when an umpire in a men’s league game stabbed a fan who had been shouting at him.

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