Two Cal State Fullerton football players have been suspended from the team while police investigate their involvement in a brawl in which a Marine Corps sergeant suffered fatal injuries, athletic director Ed Carroll said Monday.
Carroll identified the players as sophomore quarterback Carlos Siragusa, 21, and junior wide receiver John Gibbs, 22. He said they were suspended Friday when it was learned by university officials that they had been involved in an April 6 fight at Baxter's Restaurant, a popular off-campus nightspot.
Staff Sgt. Richard William Bottjer, 30, a flight information specialist at El Toro Marine Air Station, died of severe head injuries sustained in the fight, which pitted the two football players and two other Cal State Fullerton students against Bottjer and one other Marine, according to Fullerton police.
Police said the fight began when someone stepped in front of Bottjer during a "Hot Legs" competition and blocked his view.
The fight broke out shortly before midnight in Baxter's and continued across the street in a pizza parlor parking lot.
Bottjer was pronounced brain-dead last Thursday and his heart was later implanted into a 26-year-old Huntington Beach musician in the first heart transplant ever in Orange County. The coroner's report on the death has not been completed.
In a statement released Monday afternoon, Carroll said that Gibbs and Siragusa had been suspended "pending the outcome of the investigation of an off-campus incident that resulted in a death."
"Information I have obtained to date gives a significantly different picture of the incident than do accounts that have appeared thus far in the news media, but it would be inappropriate for either me or Coach Gene Murphy to engage in speculation," Carroll said. "We will, therefore, await the outcome of the Fullerton Police Department's investigation before commenting further on the matter."
Fullerton Police Sgt. Tony Hernandez confirmed that the Cal State players had been questioned in the Marine's death, but said it was too early to say if charges would be brought against anyone.
He said the situation was probably aggravated by the fact that both groups were at the bar celebrating birthdays--in the Marines' case, it was the birthday of Cpl. Scott Taylor, who was not involved in the melee. The students and football players apparently were celebrating Siragusa's birthday, which fell on April 7.
"You have two sets of people and both of them celebrating birthdays," Hernandez said. "Just two groups that got into an argument . . . one thing led to another."
Neither Siragusa nor Gibbs could be reached for comment.