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Former Southwest Baptist University football player from Am. Samoa charged

Southwest Baptist University’s Meyer Wellness and Sports Center. [SBU website]

BOLIVAR, Mo. (AP) — A former football player at Southwest Baptist University was charged Wednesday in a videotaped assault at a group home for children.

Viavia Manuma, 24, is jailed in Polk County on $50,000 bond on one count of child abuse and two counts of first-degree assault in the July incident at Home Court Advantage Inc. in Bolivar. Manuma's attorney, Matthew Weatherman, said through an assistant that he had no comment.

The school dismissed two students over the allegations Monday but hasn't identified them, citing student privacy laws. Manuma, who grew up in Pago Pago, American Samoa, recently completed his last season of eligibility. The defensive lineman ranked among the program's top pass rushers.

After the charges were announced, the school said in a statement that the people involved in the video apparently worked at the group home. The statement said the university immediately called law enforcement and a child welfare hotline upon learning of the video last week.

A Polk County sheriff's deputy wrote in the probable cause statement that the video shows Manuma hitting a male under the age of 18. The deputy wrote that the juvenile went limp the second time he was struck in the face and that the person who was videotaping the confrontation then appeared to kick the juvenile in the head. A person could be heard in the background saying "oh yeah" and making other encouraging statements, the detective wrote. When the juvenile regained consciousness, Manuma and a third staff member could be seen helping him to his feet, the probable cause statement said.

The juvenile told investigators the confrontation began when Manuma grabbed him from behind and pushed him into a bathtub, according to the probable cause statement. The juvenile said he grabbed a shower rod and swung it at Manuma, who then began hitting him. The person the juvenile identified as kicking him in the head hasn't been charged.

The home phone number for Jack McCrimmon, who is registered as the president of Home Court Advantage, rang unanswered Tuesday and Wednesday. McCrimmon is a former basketball player at Southwest Baptist University and financial booster of the school.

A woman who answered the phone at the group home but declined to give her name declined to comment. The Department of Social Services privately contracts with such facilities for residential treatment services, Tim Decker, the director of the Missouri Children's Division, said Monday. He said a residential licensing unit is conducting a review of the facility after the incident. The facility houses 64 children with special needs such as psychiatric problems and developmental disabilities.

Several state agencies, including law enforcement, are involved in the ongoing investigation.

Bolivar is more than 100 miles southeast of Kansas City.