Potential starter accused of battery

Published: Wednesday, June 21, 2006 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, June 21, 2006 at 1:20 a.m.
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Avery Atkins

Sun file


What to know

  • UF defensive back Avery Atkins is accused of felony false imprisonment and misdemeanor domestic battery. He has not been arrested.
  • He and witnesses claim he was acting in self defense.
  • Atkins has been removed from the team until the case is resolved.

  • The mother of Avery Atkins' child has accused the University of Florida football player of punching her repeatedly and holding her in a car against her will for about 20 minutes Saturday, according to a Daytona Beach Police incident report.
    Atkins, a sophomore defensive back from Daytona Beach Mainland, is accused of felony false imprisonment and misdemeanor domestic battery of Benarah Sanford, according to the report. Atkins told police he did not hold Sanford against her will and that any battery against her was in self defense.
    According to the report, Sanford sustained swelling and small lacerations to her face and upper arm in the altercation and received treatment from Daytona Beach Fire-Rescue. Her injuries were photographed, according to the report.
    Atkins told police he and Sanford were arguing over another woman who had sent Atkins a text message on his cellphone. Atkins and Sanford have been a couple for about a year and had a child together in April.
    No arrests have been made or charges filed in the case, which remains open. Police are expected to interview Atkins, Sanford and witnesses further.
    "It might appear to be mutual combat," said Al Tolley, public information officer with the Daytona Beach Police. "The investigation is ongoing."
    In the report, Sanford said she and Atkins began arguing Saturday while driving to Atkins' grandmother's house. Sanford said Atkins leaned over and punched her with a closed fist. Sanford said the altercation continued when they arrived at Atkins' grandmother's house and Atkins punched her in the face "about 13 times." She stated that Atkins held her face against the passenger window while he talked to relatives.
    Sanford said Atkins then drove around for about 20 minutes, refusing to take her home and locking the car doors. She said three times at different locations she tried to exit the vehicle, but was punched or Atkins would suddenly accelerate the car.
    Atkins and two witnesses gave a different version to police.
    Atkins told police that as he pulled into his grandmother's driveway that Sanford starting slapping him in the face without warning, screaming and saying she hated him. He said he attempted to restrain her by holding her down, but could not get a hold of her and he pushed her away several times.
    A witness, Norma Lee, told police she saw Sanford striking Atkins repeatedly in the face and body and that Atkins was trying to push her away.
    Atkins told police that the battery did occur, but it was initiated in self defense because Sanford was attacking him.
    According to Lee and another witness, Avie Austin, Sanford was not being detained against her will. They told police she was afforded several opportunities to leave the vehicle but refused.
    Police said no arrest was made because of conflicting stories.
    Police will forward the results of their investigation to the State Attorney's office, which would determine whether any charges are brought in the incident. There is a chance the case could be dropped as more information is gathered by police.
    Atkins, a projected starter, has remained in Gainesville this summer and is enrolled in the Summer B semester, which begins July 3.
    Until his case is resolved, Atkins will not be a member of the UF football team, coach Urban Meyer said Tuesday.
    "Avery has some issues to deal with before he can participate in any of our team activities," Meyer said in a statement released by the sports information office.
    Atkins' UF career has been somewhat in limbo since April, when he missed the last week of spring practice and the Orange and Blue Game to take care of a personal issue in Daytona Beach.
    Meyer said three weeks ago that Atkins had begun working out with his teammates again and he was getting closer to being back in the good graces of the coaches.
    Contact Robbie Andreu at 374-5022 or andreur@gvillesun.com.

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