Crippled Football Player Testifies in Racially Charged Case
Confined to a wheelchair and attached to a ventilator and medical monitors, a former East Central University football player testified last week that he lost the use of his arms and legs in a racially charged, hit-and-run incident in which a teammate was killed.
“I can’t move. I can’t feed myself. I can’t take a bath,” Dennis Scales of Mansfield, Texas, said during the opening day of testimony in the trial of Ammon Dean Reich, who is charged with first-degree murder in the Sept. 19 death of ECU football player Joseph Tusan.
Tusan, who was 18, died and Scales, 19, became a quadriplegic after the truck they were in was struck from behind by Reich’s vehicle on U.S. 377-Oklahoma 99 in Pontotoc County about 60 miles southeast of Oklahoma City. Reich, 43, of Konawa, also faces multiple counts of assault and battery. He has pleaded innocent.
Tusan, of Arlington, Texas, and Scales are Black . Reich is White.
Scales, transported from Texas in an ambulance to testify in the case, spoke softly and struggled for breath as he told Reich’s 12-member jury he was hospitalized for a month following the collision. He has been hospitalized two or three times since.
“I need my nurse and my mom to see to me,” Scales said. He was attended by paramedics and members of his family during his testimony.
Scales, who attended ECU on a football scholarship and was an engineering major, told Assistant District Attorney Chris Ross he remembered little about the collision and the angry confrontation that preceded it.
Under cross-examination by Reich’s defense attorney, James Rowan, Scales said he and Tusan had been smoking marijuana prior to the collision.
Reich, dressed in an orange-checkered shirt and blue jeans, looked away from Scales during his testimony. Reich remains free on $125,000 bail.
The attorneys told jurors during opening statements the incident occurred after Tusan and members of his group went to an area along the Canadian River north of Ada looking for a party following a team victory.
The group got involved in an argument with others at the river, including Reich and members of his family. Reich used a derogatory racial epithet that angered members of Tusan’s group and they exchanged profanities. Reich twice fired weapons into the air — first a .22-caliber rifle, then a pistol.
“An ugly situation was created,” Rowan said. “The ‘n’ word is so charged with emotion that no one should ever use it for any reason.”
During the confrontation, a White ECU football player removed his belt and swung it at Reich and his family, striking one of his two daughters in the head. The wound required stitches.
Rowan said Reich became enraged by the incident. “He’s furious. He’s beside himself,” the defense attorney said.
Reich pursued a pickup truck containing Tusan, Scales and other ECU students at speeds of up to 100 mph. The truck overturned, throwing seven students from the bed of the truck, after Reich’s vehicle struck it in the rear.
Tusan was found under the truck’s tailgate, and Scales was lying beside the vehicle.
— Associated Press
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