After offering a $2,000 reward to find the man who tackled and injured a Colorado Rockies employee dressed as the team’s mascot, Dinger, during Monday’s home game at Coors Field, the Denver Police Department may have found the culprit.
Kenneth Sonley, 45, turned himself in on Friday after investigators identified him as Dinger’s tackler and called him by phone. The police cited Sonley for assault and disturbing the peace. A citation is sometimes called a non-custodial arrest, with the suspect not handcuffed, required to take a mug shot or jailed. Sonley, who is innocent until proven guilty, faces a court hearing next month. Sonley did not issue a public statement and was not available for comment at the time of publication.
Under Denver’s municipal code, a conviction on assault, which entails knowingly or recklessly inflicting violence on another person, can lead to a jail sentence of up to 300 days. Longer sentences are possible when the victim was injured.
Whether Sonley has a criminal record will be a key fact. In general, those without criminal records face lighter punishments than repeat criminals. Depending on his record, Sonley might be able to negotiate plea deal in which he avoids jail altogether and instead pays a fine and performs community service.
According to the police, the incident occurred at approximately 8:18 p.m. local time as the Rockies were playing the St. Louis Cardinals.
As Dinger, a purple triceratops, performed a dance routine, the suspect climbed on top of the bullpen, looked at Dinger and then moved to tackle the mascot, knocking him off his feet. Dinger seemed to get the best of the encounter by standing up quickly and continuing the dance. The suspect, meanwhile, scurried off.
But all was not well for Dinger. The police say the employee suffered unspecified injuries.
Despite the incident occurring in front of more than 24,000 people, stadium security didn’t detain or identify the suspect, who left Coors Field. The police later identified the suspect as a man who, in a photo from the game, was drinking a Modelo beer.
Had a player, coach or fan been tackled, security would ordinarily detain the unruly person and in some cases alert law enforcement for possible criminal charges. It’s possible people (mistakenly) thought the incident was part of an act.
The employee playing the mascot could sue the suspect for intentional infliction of emotional distress, battery and other torts.
The Rockies, meanwhile, waged a “Justice for Dinger” campaign in hopes of nabbing the suspect:
This wasn’t the first instance of a nonconsensual mascot sacking. In 2019, New England Patriots mascot Pat Patriot was similarly tackled, except by a much larger person with deep expertise: New York Jets safety Jamal Adams. During the Pro Bowl Skills Challenge, Adams (6-1, 213 pounds) thought it would be amusing for “Patriots haters” to see him stick it to Pat Patriot.
Except it wasn’t all fun and games for Pat Patriot, who initially didn’t get up and needed medical attention. The mascot didn’t sue, however, instead watching the Patriots–which have a 14-0 record against the Jets since 2016–mete out justice.