A homicide investigator for the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office has been arrested after he was accused of knocking a whistle from a referee’s mouth during a children’s soccer game.
Sgt. Michael Russell, 46, was booked Tuesday on a charge of battery on a sports official, Sheriff T.K. Water said. Russell is the second Jacksonville police officer arrested this year.
The case stems from a soccer game that Russell attended while off duty, out of uniform, on March 25. A fight broke out between the teams, and referees began blasting their whistles to break it up, Waters said. That is when Russell walked onto the field toward a referee and hit him in the face, “knocking the whistle out of his mouth,” Waters said Tuesday.
“It is really confusing to me,” Waters said. “It’s at a kids’ sporting event, and the referee is blowing a whistle as we probably hear them do in football games and anything when those kind of things break out, and for some reason, he struck that official. Disappointing.”
Russell was hired in 2008 and made sergeant Dec. 28, 2019, Waters said. He remains on the police force while his criminal charge is investigated, but he has been relieved of his homicide duties, Waters said.
Russell’s arrest report indicates the incident occurred about noon Saturday at Losco Regional Park on Losco Road. Several parents came onto the field during the fight, it says.
Investigating officers found a photo and cellphone video of the incident. No alcohol was involved, the report says.
Portions of the report were blacked out, so it was not clear whether Russell was related to any of the children playing soccer.
After Russell’s criminal case is decided, the Sheriff’s Office will begin its administrative review, Waters said.
Randy Reaves, president of the Fraternal Order of Police, said the union has faith that the investigation will be “complete and thorough.”
“Sergeant Russell is entitled to the same due process afforded to every citizen, and we will have no further comment while that process occurs,” Reaves said.
The first police officer arrested this year was Officer Cecil Grant, 36, who was charged Jan. 6 with official misconduct after an arrest he made in December was dismissed due to problems, Waters said
The arrest stemmed from a case that Grant and another officer investigated. When the officers’ bodycam videos were reviewed later, investigators found that Grant’s report of the incident was inaccurate, Waters said.
Ten Sheriff’s Office employees were booked into jail last year, some of those corrections officers.