A Riverside County youth football coach is under investigation after he allegedly punched a player from an opposing team during a game over the weekend.
According to Murrieta Police Department, Elbylardo Manuel Funes, 50, was arrested on Saturday and booked on suspicion of child abuse and battery for the incident, which happened at Vista Murrieta High School at around 5:30 p.m.
Funes is a coach for the Murrieta Broncos, who are not associated with Murrieta Valley Unified School District and are instead part of the Murrieta Jr. All-American Youth Football League.
They were using a field at the school ahead of a game on Saturday when he punched a 14-year-old member of the Perris Panthers for reasons that remain unclear.
"It was chaotic," said Vaiagiga Kaowili, whose son Harlem was punched. "I just see players and a coach coming and he just punches my son. Like right in front of me."
The punch started a brawl that involved parents, players and coaches from both teams, police noted.
"I am face-to-face with this coach and he punches my son," Kaowili recalled. "My son walks six steps back and he sits down, falls out. As he is coming to, he starts having a seizure."
Police say that the boy suffered an eye injury and exhibited symptoms of a concussion, sending him to the hospital. He has since been released and is at home recovering, but Kaowili says that things are noticeably different.
"He's not as bright self, we have a dim Harlem," she said. "We don't have a bright Harlem anymore."
The family has hired an attorney as the case is investigated by authorities.
"He is an athletic trainer, you work with kids. It's not right to hit a child. No adult should hit a child," Kaowili said. "I really want that person and that team to really suffer the legal consequences that need to be suffered. It is just not fair to Harlem."
Despite it all, Kaowili says her son still feels for the coach.
"Harlem has so much sympathy and compassion for the coach who hit him, he said, 'Mom, I feel bad for him,'" Kaowili said.
On Monday, the Murrieta Jr. All-American Football League issued a statement regarding the incident, which said:
"Broncos would like to say that the incident that happened Saturday afternoon during our Midget game vs. Perris was an unfortunate and disheartening situation. We do not condone any actions that occurred on Saturday.
This is a tough situation on all families involved. We care about all of the kids, and we wish Harlem and his family well."
Both teams have been forced to forfeit their seasons as a result of the brawl.
Funes has since been released after posting the $35,000 bond.
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