A Philadelphia Catholic high school has fired an assistant basketball coach for allegedly being connected to a recent anti-gay attack that left a gay couple with multiple injuries.
The Archdiocese of Philadelphia said the man was fired Wednesday evening and had worked as an assistant basketball coach at Archbishop Wood High School.
"I have confirmed that one of the individuals involved in the incident in some way was an assistant basketball coach," said Ken Gavin, a spokesperson for the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, in a statement. "He was not a teacher at the school but serving as a coach on a contract basis. He was terminated this evening and will not be permitted to coach in any Archdiocesan school. We expect all those who work with students in our schools to model appropriate Christian behavior at all times."
However, when asked by BuzzFeed News, Philadelphia Police would not confirm whether the man was a person of interest in the attack. A spokesperson said only that nobody has been charged in connection with this incident and authorities will not release the names of suspects until that happens.
"Investigators are continuing to interview a number of people regarding this incident, folks from the video as well as other civilian witnesses that have come forward," said Lieutenant John Stanford, Commanding Officer of Public Affairs & Social Media, in a statement to BuzzFeed News. "They are also trying to determine if there is any additional video confirming or contradicting. It's our responsibility to bring those in who are responsible for committing a crime, but it's also our responsibility to thoroughly investigate to make sure the right person or persons are charged."
Previously, police said they had interviewed "several" people on Wednesday in connection with the attack, but that nobody was in custody as of Thursday morning.
On Sept. 11 around 10:45 p.m., the two victims were approached by a group of about 10-12 people, and according to police, made disparaging anti-gay comments before physically attacking them. The group fled the scene taking a victim's bag containing a wallet and credit cards. Both victims were taken to a nearby hospital, and one suffered lacerations to the face and a fractured jaw, which was wired shut, according to information from police.
The Archdiocese of Philadelphia noted that in addition to firing the basketball coach for an alleged connection to the crime, it has become aware that several of the school's former students were also allegedly involved in the attack, Gavin said in the statement.
On Wednesday, "Archbishop Wood High School became aware that some of its former students were allegedly involved in the assault of two men in Center City last week," Gavin said. "[Wednesday] afternoon, administrators communicated with the entire Archbishop Wood school community to make it emphatically clear that the school does not, under any circumstances, tolerate or condone the violent and hateful behavior displayed by those who took part in this senseless attack."
Gavin went on to condemn those who perpetrated the crime as against the teachings of the Catholic Church, and specifically, Archbishop Wood High School.
"Administration also stressed that Catholic schools are centers of learning where students are expected to treat each other in a Christ-like manner at all times and that everyone deserves to be treated with respect and dignity," he said. "The actions of those who took part in the attack are reprehensible and entirely unacceptable. They are not an accurate reflection of our Catholic values or of Archbishop Wood High School."
On Tuesday night, Twitter users combed through Facebook posts and social media to help police identity people seen in surveillance footage being used in the investigation. But despite these developments, there are still no arrests, police said.
A spokesperson for the Archdiocese of Philadelphia clarified its previous statements on the former high school coach who was allegedly involved in the attack, saying that Archbishop Wood High School did not fire the man, he resigned upon being confronted.
If he had not resigned, though, he would have been terminated, according to Stephanie Brophy, Associate Director of Communications at the Archdiocese of Philadelphia.
Additionally, the archdiocese issued a statement from Archbishop Charles Chaput in response to the attack and the apparent connection to the school:
“A key part of a Catholic education is forming students to respect the dignity of every human person whether we agree with them or not. What students do with that formation when they enter the adult world determines their own maturity and dignity, or their lack of it. Violence against anyone, simply because of who they are, is inexcusable and alien to what it means to be a Christian. A recent beating incident in Center City allegedly involved, in some way, a part-time coach at Archbishop Wood High School. After inquiries by school leadership, the coach was contacted regarding the matter and he resigned. Archbishop Wood’s handling of the matter was appropriate, and I support their efforts to ensure that Catholic convictions guide the behavior of their whole school community, including their staff.”