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HS football coach arrested, accused of assaulting player with helmet

RAMAPO, N.Y. — Ramapo High School varsity football coach Duffman Pannell has been arrested, accused of hitting a 15-year-old player in the head with a football helmet on the practice field, authorities said Tuesday.

The blow caused the student to bleed from above his left eye, which was swollen, a felony complaint against Pannell stated.

Pannell, 43, a first-year head football coach who lived in Middletown, struck the player, junior Brandon Girault, on Monday during practice, authorities said.

Pannell was charged with second-degree assault, a felony, based upon the severity of the injuries, and endangering the welfare of a child. He was released without bail by Justice Alan Simon on Monday night for a court appearance scheduled for Tuesday .

Girault, who signed a felony complaint filed by the police with Ramapo Justice Court, wrote Pannell swung the helmet with his right hand in “an upward motion and purposely strike him in the head, causing considerable pain, swelling and bleeding above his left eye.”

Ramapo police deferred all questions to the East Ramapo School District.

The district was preparing a statement , said Tom Carton, the district’s coordinator of safety and security.

Pannell, a social studies teacher, has not been suspended from the school but will not be coaching or teaching while the investigation is continuing, according to a statement released by district Superintendent Joel Klein.

“We are conducting an internal investigation in conjunction with the Ramapo Police Department,” the statement said. “The coach was arrested and released. Until the investigation is completed, the coach has been released from his coaching responsibilities.”

Klein said no decision on whether disciplinary charges would be filed would be made until the investigation was completed or the court proceedings were final. He said the football players who attended the practice are still being interviewed by detectives .

“Right now we have to find out exactly what’s going on by speaking to the witnesses,” Klein said. “The whole team was there so it could be a lengthy process. Witnesses sometimes see things differently.”

Attempts to reach Pannell and Bill Pilla, East Ramapo’s athletic director, were unsuccessful.

Kevin Bullock, the team’s defensive coordinator, will coach the team for the rest of this season. Bullock, a teacher at the school, has been instructed not to comment.

Pannell stepped down as Ramapo’s athletic coordinator after last year. He has coached football previously at both Spring Valley and Ramapo high schools.

Ramapo’s football team is currently 4-3 and has qualified for the Class AA playoffs for the first time since 2008. It beat Spring Valley 21-18 last week and is scheduled to play at White Plains on Friday night at 6:30 in a Class AA quarterfinal.

Pannell and others on his staff kept the team together amid the district’s budget turmoil. Back in the winter and spring when there was uncertainty about whether the school would even have football in the 2013-14 school year, Pannell organized workouts with what remained of the team on a weekly basis. He was finally interviewed for the head coaching job in April, but was not hired until late June.

Steve Lieberman also writes for the Journal-News.



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