UPPER SADDLE RIVER, N.J. (CBSNewYork) — A local father is facing assault charges for attacking another dad in front of football-playing fourth graders.
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The incident happened on a field packed with members of the Bulldogs of Upper Saddle River. But the kids on the team had nothing to do with a fight on the field between two fathers, who crossed the line, CBS 2’s Derricke Dennis reported.
The children, as young as 7, saw pushing, shoving, punches and police making an arrest.
“One kid tackled another guy too hard, and then I think that caused the parents to fight a little,” 8-year-old Craig Rathbun said.
Rathbun was suited up for practice Tuesday when on the sidelines he heard two fathers at first arguing and then throwing fists.
“He was like punching him in the face. It was like crucial,” Craig Rathbun said.
His older sister, Alexa Rathbun, said she witnessed the incident, too.
“Just saw people screaming and running over and I was amazed because I never [thought] something like this would happen where we live,” she said.
After calls to 911, the alleged aggressor on the field — identified as 46-year-old Juan Correa — was arrested for assaulting another father — identified as Alex Berlingeri. He was punched in the head.
Later, Berlingeri’s alleged attacker apologized in an e-mail to every league parent saying, “I let my emotions get the best of me and I made a poor decision. I am sorry for any cause for concern this may have caused you or your child. I set a poor example for the kids and showed them exactly how not to handle a situation.”
That apology was for several reasons — the altercation and for violating the league’s own rules that parents must stay behind the fence for their safety and to keep their emotions in check.
“Unfortunately, when they are up close and seeing the kids get hit, the emotion rises in them,” coach John Rathbun said.
Coach Rathbun said he’ll use the fight as a teachable moment for parents and the team.
“Adults aren’t supposed to act like this, especially in front of children,” Alexa Rathbun said.
The father who was punched did not sustain any serious injuries. The man police said attacked him is due in court next Tuesday.
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