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Baptist minister charged in knife attack on coach

ATLANTA (BP)–A Baptist minister working as a referee is free on bond after he was charged with slashing a youth basketball coach at a Feb. 13 tournament, according to a report in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

Oliver Lewis Wood, minister of Elim Baptist Church in Newnan, Ga., was charged with aggravated assault and bringing a weapon onto school property. Wood, 46, was released from the Fayette County Jail on $55,000 bail on Feb. 14.

The victim, Jerry Sweeney, a Fulton County marshal, received 17 stitches in his slashed left arm. He was also stabbed in the neck.

Stunned players and their parents watched as the coach was whisked away in an ambulance and Fayetteville police arrested the referee, the Journal-Constitution reported.

Wood said he acted in self-defense, according to Bob Hudak, an Episcopal minister in Fayetteville, Ga., who is also a youth basketball coach. Hudak spoke to Wood at the jail on Feb. 14, the Journal-Constitution reported.

Sweeney and the assistant coach were yelling at the referee during the game, Hudak told the newspaper. Afterward, according to Wood, Sweeney grabbed him around the neck, Hudak said.

Wood’s attorney, Rufus Smith, said the charges against his client — a minister, substitute teacher, bus driver, Air Force veteran, father of five — are without merit.

“This is out of context to anything that has happened to him before,” Smith said.

Sweeney, meanwhile, said his assistant coach, Mike Barfield, asked him to get the referee’s name so he could report some questionable calls to the “head ref.” Wood, overhearing the conversation, lunged at the assistant coach, Sweeney told the Journal-Constitution. When Sweeney put himself between the two, the knife grazed his neck. He put an arm up to shield himself and was cut, Sweeney told the newspaper.

“He just went berserk,” Sweeney said of the referee.

Police found Wood’s 3-inch pocketknife in the school playground, where they said he tossed it, the newspaper reported.

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