Assaults rattle Ice Jacks: One player arrested, another hospitalized
By Lumberjack newspaper staff
Two assaults occurred on the night of Sept. 8 and early morning of Sept. 9 involving members of the NAU Ice Jacks hockey club at 408 W. Tombstone Ave.
Former Ice Jacks member Zachary Vachris, a senior, was arrested for misdemeanor assault with reckless intent to injure freshman Mark Rodriguez. Junior Dillon Butenhoff was bludgeoned with a brick in what police are describing as a possible retaliation following a party at the “Hockey House.”
Sources report members of the hockey team were holding a party exclusively for hockey players and female guests.
“We were gonna have a little get-together with the hockey team, just hockey players, [to] celebrate everybody who made the team,” Butenhoff said. “I don’t know what happened, but more than just hockey players ended up in the house.”
ALLEGED ASSAULTS AND RACIAL SLURS
Sources say around midnight, a group of uninvited guests, possibly including Rodriguez, four African-American females and three males claiming to play for the football team, arrived at the party. According to the student doorman for the party, whose identity The Lumberjack has chosen to withhold, the group was initially denied entry but eventually allowed in.
“Zach made ‘friends’ with them and he let them in and said, ‘Hey, just don’t do anything to [expletive] up the house,’” the doorman said.
Currently, there is no evidence confirming any ties to the football team.
Around 12:30 a.m., according to sources, a fight broke out between Vachris and Rodriguez in the house. The police report states Vachris initiated the fight. Rodriguez and the group he had arrived with then left the residence.
Allegedly, racial slurs were exchanged between the two parties during the altercation.
“[Zach] said racial slurs as far as, ‘Oh, you guys always come to these parties, always mess things up, always do this,’” the doorman said. “[He was] blatantly stating this racial group always gets crazy when they are in that kind of vicinity. [Rodriguez and the females] were just cursing at us.”
The report given to the police by the accusers stated the hockey team yelled racial slurs including “n—–,” “colored” and “go home, peasants.” Vachris did not comment on the racial slurs in the police report and declined to comment on the story following advising from his legal counsel.
While he said he was not present to hear what Vachris allegedly said, Butenhoff said the slur allegations surprised him.
“You know, we have three black players on the team,” Butenhoff said. “I don’t understand how we can have that racism tag when we have probably more black players on our team than the entire West [American Collegiate Hockey Association].”
That afternoon, Rodriguez and the four African-American females reported Vachris for assault to FPD. The alleged victims were advised not to comment by their legal counsel.
Vachris arrived at FPD two hours later, where he was informed the other party wanted to press charges. Vachris was compliant, arrested and booked into Coconino County Sheriff’s Office for assault. He was later released on bail for an undisclosed amount.
Vachris is now on indefinite suspension from the hockey team and is currently not listed on the roster.
PLAYER ATTACKED WITH A BRICK
According to a friend of members of the hockey team, whose name The Lumberjack has chosen to withhold, residents of the so-called Hockey House had received a phone call warning of a possible retaliation by those who had been previously kicked out after the first altercation.
Following the end of the party, Butenhoff and the friend began picking up trash from the yard and surrounding area, including the car wash across the street. According to the friend, the two split and Butenhoff collected trash near the car wash.
“I saw three guys standing by the dumpster right outside the carwash and I thought I recognized two of them,” Butenhoff said. “I said something to them and went in for a handshake . . . and [one of the assailants] said something along the lines of, ‘Stop pretending like you know me.’ Right as soon as he said that, I got popped with the first shot and I don’t remember anything until I was standing over a sink trying to clean up blood.”
The accompanying friend did not witness the attack but was quick to aid Butenhoff.
“I just see these two kids over top of Dillon. One holding a brick, another kid running behind them . . . I got there pretty quick,” the friend said.
The attackers fled and Butenhoff retreated to the house.
Following searching for the attackers and collecting the brick, sources drove Butenhoff to Flagstaff Medical Center around 3 a.m. where he remained until 6:30 a.m. While at FMC, Butenhoff was questioned by Flagstaff Police Department (FPD).
According to Butenhoff, the police have linked the two cases. Witnesses from that night also believe the incidents are linked.
“My best assumption was that it was [connected],” the doorman said. “They had come back and they had tried to pick one person to send a message. It could have just as easily been me . . .Unfortunately Boots [Butenhoff] was at the wrong area at the wrong time . . . They just wanted to get back.”
No arrests have been made concerning Butenhoff’s assault and the case is still under investigation. Anyone with information should contact the FPD at (928)-774-1414.
Editor’s note: Reporters Bree Purdy, Kevin Bertram, Kierstin Turnock, Cody Bashore and Travis Guy contributed to this report.