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Archive for Thursday, August 2, 2007

Stabbed punter re-enacts assault

Northern Colorado player emotional during testimony

August 2, 2007

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— A college football player attacked by a knife-wielding man broke down in sobs on the stand Wednesday after re-enacting the assault.

Rafael Mendoza, a starting punter for Northern Colorado, was left with a 3- to 5-inch gash in his kicking leg in the attack last Sept. 11, but later returned to the team.

Police and prosecutors allege the then-backup punter, Mitch Cozad, stabbed Mendoza in a bid to get the starter's job.

Cozad is on trial on charges of attempted first-degree murder and second-degree assault. His attorney, however, has said another student attacked Mendoza.

Mendoza testified he had just gotten out of his car at his apartment when he heard footsteps behind him, was hit hard in the head and fell to the ground.

Mendoza said he saw a man swing at him with a knife, miss and then swing again, hitting him in the leg. The attacker was dressed all in black, wearing a sweatshirt with a hood cinched up so that only the eyes were visible.

Prosecutor Michele Meyer asked Mendoza to demonstrate to jurors his positioning during the attack. Mendoza climbed off the witness stand to demonstrate on the courtroom floor.

After he finished, Mendoza showed how he was attacked, using a yellow highlighter as the knife.

The attack took about a minute and a half, he said, and the first thing that entered his mind afterward was: "Why would someone do this? I thought it was because of my car. I didn't know someone would want a car so bad."

When asked what his biggest concern was after the attack, Mendoza began to choke up. He said he thought of his fiancee, Meghan Gregory, upstairs in his apartment.

"All this happened, and she had no clue. My family. My football career," Mendoza said.

Asked if he was in fear for his life, he said, "I was."

Later, as Meyer replayed Mendoza's labored, panting 911 call from his cell phone, Mendoza broke down in sobs, and Judge Marcelo Kopcow called a recess. In the hallway afterward, Mendoza clung to Gregory and sobbed. His family quickly surrounded the couple, hugging them.

"To listen to that tape really hit me more than any other time," Mendoza's father Rafael Sr. said. "I cried. I lost it. I won't lie."

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