CLEVELAND, Ohio (WOIO) - A Trumbull County man is accused of ruffling more than a few feathers at a high school football game.
Erik Szelest, 35, is charged with assault after multiple witnesses said he punched Hubbard High School’s eagle mascot in the head last Friday, causing minor injuries to the student wearing the costume.
Szelest pleaded not guilty at his arraignment. He is being held in the Trumbull County Jail on $5,000 bond.
Police say an officer working at the football game detained Szelest in the parking lot and asked him about the incident.
According to police records, the suspect said, “The mascot had something on his beak, I got it off.”
Szelest was taken back to the police station. When asked if he wanted to make a statement, police say the suspect told them, “I’m pleading the 5th.”
Isaac Powell, the student behind eagle costume, went to the police station with his dad after the game and told officers Szelest had approached him while he was coming out of the stands.
The high school junior said the suspect asked him a couple of questions in an “angered voice."
Powell told police he made a gesture like he was listening to Szelest and then the suspect put his hands on him and punched him in the head.
Multiple witnesses confirmed the victim’s story, according to police.
In May, Powell was named the best high school mascot in the country at the Varsity Brands School Spirit Awards in Orlando.
Powell, who is currently a junior at Hubbard High School, was recognized by the Ohio General Assembly last week.
According to the school district, the General Assembly has only ever recognized one other mascot - Ohio State’s Brutus Buckeye.
Powell says he aspires to be a mascot for a professional team, and would like to attend OSU and become Brutus after high school.