Details emerge in assault on U. players

Published: Wednesday, Jan. 23 2008 12:37 a.m. MST

Saturday night's attack on two University of Utah football players and a recruit from Timpanogos High School escalated quickly — erupting in violence after a brief verbal altercation.

Paul Kruger, the father of two of the victims, said the incident in a residential Salt Lake City neighborhood began when a group of men in a car leaned out of the windows and yelled obscenities at the athletes and their friends as they walked away from a gathering at a house near 2900 S. 700 East around 11:15 p.m. They were walking to their car, which was parked about one block away.

Freshman defensive end Paul Kruger (same name as his father), junior defensive lineman Greg Newman and Kruger's younger brother David, a recruit who plans to sign with the Utes next month, told the men to "shut up" and "get out of here." Kruger's father said Newman threw a snowball at the car during the exchange and the occupants then got out of the vehicle.

Paul, he explained, then ran over to the men and said, "Look this is not worth getting into a scuffle over."

The men, however, kept coming. Things escalated after one of the players was spit on. Two other cars pulled up to the scene and the occupants then snuck up on the players from behind as a brawl ensued.

Paul Kruger was stabbed in the ribs and abdomen with a knife, while Newman was stabbed twice in the back with a screwdriver. David Kruger was punched in the right cheek with a hard metal object, believed to be brass knuckles.

The assailants are still unknown and police have yet to name any suspects in the case.

"I understand they are looking for them, but I don't know where they are (in the investigation)," Kruger's father said. "I haven't been told anything. The police haven't contacted me at all. So I don't know where they are on it."

The attackers, he added, were just out looking for a fight.

"That's what it boils down to."

Paul Kruger underwent four hours of surgery at University Hospital and could be released as early as today if his punctured lung is deemed strong enough. The other two victims were treated and released.

Paul Kruger's situation could have been far worse had he not been with a friend who is an emergency room nurse. The woman, who works in Boise, helped Kruger's sister Jessica apply pressure to his stab wounds and monitored his blood pressure while the group attempted to drive the injured men to the hospital.

Kruger's father said Meredith (he couldn't recall her last name) saved his son's "bacon" by immediately calling 911 for an ambulance when his blood pressure began to drop. The emergency crew responded quickly and met the car approximately a mile from the scene of the attack.

"That was critical," Kruger's father said. "She really helped out."

Kruger's prognosis is good for a full recovery — as is the case for the other two athletes. None of the injuries is considered life-threatening.

A day after the incident, Kruger was visited by the entire Utah football team — prompting the hospital to move the player to a private room.

Head coach Kyle Whittingham said the health of the injured student-athletes is a top concern.

As for the investigation, he's taking a cautious tone to avoid impeding its progress.

"What we can say is both Paul and Greg are great representatives of our program," he said. "And like I said in my earlier release, it's just a classic case of wrong place at the wrong time."


E-mail: dirk@desnews.com

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