Sergeant with Florida sheriff’s office accused of punching referee at youth soccer game

Sgt. Michael Russell arrested Tuesday, removed from position, Jacksonville sheriff says

Sgt. Mike Russell with the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office was arrested Tuesday. (Copyright 2023 by WJXT News4Jax - All rights reserved.)

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – A Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office homicide sergeant has been arrested after he punched a referee in the face during a children’s soccer game, Sheriff T.K. Waters told News 6 partner WJXT-TV.

Sgt. Michael Russell, who has been removed from his position in homicide, was arrested Tuesday on a charge of battery on a sports official, Waters said at a news conference.

“We never relish arresting an employee of this agency. However, our collective belief in transparency, openness and accountability outweighs any personal allegiance,” Waters said. “We are a society of laws, and no one is above those laws.”

Waters said that, according to their investigation, Russell was at a youth soccer game Sunday morning in plain clothes and off duty. When a fight broke out between some of the players, the referees attempted to break it up and were blowing their whistles repeatedly, Waters said.

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Russell then went onto the field and punched one of the refs in the face, knocking the whistle out of his mouth, Waters said.

“It’s really confusing to me,” Waters said when asked why Russell might have punched the referee. “It’s disappointing.”

Russell, a 14-year member of JSO, remains employed during the investigation, Waters said. He became a sergeant in 2019.

Waters said JSO will begin an administrative review after the criminal investigation is complete.

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