Three UNO hockey players face disorderly conduct allegations after they allegedly spouted racial slurs and got into a fight in the Old Market.
Matt White, 25, Alex Simonson, 23, and Preston Hodge, 21, all members of the University of Nebraska at Omaha hockey team, were each ticketed Aug. 3 on suspicion of disorderly conduct, a misdemeanor.
Lamar Triplett, 26, of Omaha, who got into a confrontation with the players, was ticketed on suspicion of misdemeanor assault.
“I don't know why I got a citation because I was just trying to defend myself that night,” Triplett said in an interview. “It was a crazy situation. It was the most random situation I have ever been in.”
City Prosecutor David Smallheiser said the men have not been formally charged and have court appearances scheduled in September.
Omaha police were called to a parking lot at 10th and Harney Streets about 2 a.m. to investigate a disturbance.
Witnesses told police that the hockey players had been harassing a small group of African-Americans with racial slurs and epithets.
Triplett said he and three friends were heading into the Stadium Bar when they encountered a group of about 10 men.
He said a man, identified by police as Hodge, stepped into his path and began taunting him with racial slurs and curse words.
“When we were walking up, I could tell something had been going on outside the bar because there were a lot of people around,” Triplett said. “I heard someone (cursing) but I didn't think it was at me.”
The disturbance escalated when Hodge allegedly pushed Triplett, who said he responded by hitting his attacker and knocking him to the ground.
Hodge hit his head on the ground and appeared to lose consciousness, according to a police report. He was taken to a hospital, where he was treated and released.
Officers arrived and began trying to contain the situation. Police said White threw a punch at Triplett but missed, and Simonson began pushing members of Triplett's group.
“I didn't know what their problem was,” Triplett said. “My cousin had just moved down here from Minneapolis and we were out hitting a couple of bars. I'd never seen any of these guys before.”
Triplett, who is 5-foot-10 and 185 pounds, said he has been in the Stadium Bar on numerous occasions and has never had any trouble. He said he was grateful that other patrons came forward and talked with police about the fight.
“It's mostly a white crowd, but there's a mix of races,” he said. “I've never felt uncomfortable. I'm not a racist by any means and the whole thing was just crazy to me.”
A man who identified himself as the bar's manager said there were no disturbances inside the venue. He said he didn't learn about the skirmish until talking with police while he was locking up.
Dean Blais, UNO hockey coach, issued a statement saying he is aware of the incident.
“We're still gathering information about what transpired. Once we've finished gathering all the facts, we'll be able to comment further,” Blais said.
According to the UNO hockey roster, Hodge is a 5-foot-11, 200-pound freshman defenseman from Bloomington, Ill.
Simonson, 6-3, 189 pounds, is from Grand Forks, N.D., and White, 5-10, 187 pounds, is from Whittier, Calif. They are both senior forwards.
White was a co-captain who was fourth on the team with 34 points (16 goals, 18 assists) and third in goals.
Simonson played in 18 of UNO's 39 games, recording two assists.
Simonson didn't return a message seeking comment, while Hodge and White didn't answer their phones.