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Longtime West Liberty athletic director arrested in Charleston

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Four people, including West Liberty University's longtime athletic director, were arrested Saturday night at Embassy Suites in Charleston following the school's conference championship win.

Athletic Director James Watson, 66, was charged with obstructing an officer. His son, Brian Watson, 28, and two West Liberty athletes also were arrested.

Charleston police were called to disperse a crowd of about 200 people at the hotel about 10:30 p.m. Multiple attempts to quiet the crowd were unsuccessful, said Lt. Steve Cooper, chief of detectives.

The crowd was made up mostly of West Liberty fans celebrating the victory over Fairmont State, Cooper said. West Liberty, which is ranked No. 1 nationally in the NCAA's Division II, won its third straight conference title.

Cooper said more than a dozen uniformed officers responded and found the large crowd, many of whom appeared to be "extremely intoxicated."  Security officers told police they couldn't get the group under control and they had received numerous complaints from other guests about the disturbance.

"We see these things occur occasionally and typically they occur when large groups of people consume large quantities of alcohol," Cooper said.

Brian Watson was holding a mixed alcoholic beverage and screaming profanities at other guests, according to a criminal complaint. Officers told him repeatedly to stop and leave but continued and was joined by others, Cooper said.

An officer tried to take Brian Watson into custody for drunk and disorderly conduct but James Watson intercepted the officer and shoved him, the lieutenant said. Brian Watson then tried to flee, moving quickly away from police, but one of the officers grabbed his arm, restraining him, according to a criminal complaint filed in Kanawha Magistrate Court.

Brian Watson was charged with disorderly conduct, obstruction, fleeing and public intoxication. James Watson, who has been athletic director at university for 23 years, was charged with obstruction.

Watson, a Syracuse, N.Y., native, has worked at the university for more than 41 years, according to his biography on the school's website.

Tyler Tucci, 22, a West Liberty football player from Ohio, took on an "aggressive stance" toward two plainclothes officers after they showed their badges, Cooper said. The undercover officers work with the department's Special Enforcement Unit and responded to help uniformed officers with the large crowd.

The officers told Tucci to leave several times but he got in their faces and became aggressive, the complaint said. Cooper said the officers tried to physically restrain Tucci but he continued to resist and was pepper-sprayed.  

Gabrielle Davis, a 19-year-old West Liberty volleyball player from Ohio, was rushing toward the officers with her arms outstretched while they were trying to arrest Tucci, the lieutenant said.

An officer grabbed her before she could reach the other officers, believing she would have put herself in the struggle between the officers and Tucci, the complaint said.

Both Tucci and Davis were charged with obstruction.

The crowd surrounded officers at one point and surged at them multiple times, Cooper said. At one point, he said, an officer was pinned down by several people in a pile.

He said the report from the scene didn't indicate anyone was injured. No officers were injured.

Jordan Stacey, a West Liberty's women's basketball player, apparently was injured in the fracas and posted to her Twitter account that she went to a local emergency room. She tweeted that doctors told her she had a cracked rib and pulled muscles.

She did not respond to requests for comment.

The four arrested were taken by paddy wagon to South Central Regional Jail. All were released on bond Sunday.

Calls to West Liberty's Sports Information Director Matt Watson, who is the son of James Watson, were not returned.

West Liberty President Robin C. Capeheart released at statement Sunday to WTOV, a Stuebenville, Ohio, television station, about the incident.

"West Liberty University has complete confidence in its administrators and respects their privacy in matters like this. We have no further comment at this time," Capeheart said.

Contact writer Ashley B. Craig at or 304-348-4850.



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