Sentences for off-campus brawl upset Theta Chi victims


Photos provided by Ryan McKiernan

Miami student Ryan McKiernan sported facial injuries in these photos taken the day after the October 3, 2020 brawl.

By Chloe Dobbs

Theta Chi sophomore Ryan McKiernan was sitting outside his fraternity house with eight brothers on Oct. 3, 2020 when a large group of football players charged toward them. The uninvited guests split up, half headed to the basement and other areas of the house and the other half engaged with the fraternity members outside. 

The ensuing brawl sent several students to the hospital.

“I was sitting at a fire with my friends and the next thing I knew I was in the back of an ambulance being transported to the hospital,” McKiernan said. 

McKiernan suffered a concussion, bruised retina and other injuries that sent him home to Cleveland for weekly checkups. Four other fraternity members were treated at Oxford’s McCullough-Hyde Memorial Hospital that night with injuries including a broken arm, bruised hand and other ailments. 

After that night, James Bomba, Dimitri Mitsopoulos, Terrell Rush and Santiago Sandri were charged and found guilty of various misdemeanor offenses. The cases made their way through the Butler County Area 1 Court in Oxford this spring, with the final one resolved last month. 

Fraternity members maintain that the football players were seeking retaliation after two of them were ejected from a party at the house the day before. 

“They were upset we kicked them out the night before, but swinging at us with golf clubs wasn’t the answer,” Zach Backiewicz, Theta Chi fraternity president, said.  

Misdemeanor charges 

Bomba, Mitsopoulos, Rush and Sandri were charged and found guilty of various misdemeanor offenses in the Butler County Area 1 Court. 

In January, Bomba, a freshman tight end from Bloomington, Indiana, was found guilty on a criminal trespassing charge and a criminal assault charge. In late December 2020, he entered the transfer pool and moved to Indiana University as a preferred walk-on to continue as a tight end in the fall. 

In March, Mitsopoulos, a freshman wide receiver from Toledo, Ohio, was found guilty on three counts of assault, three counts of trespassing and one count of disorderly conduct. He has since transferred to Trinity Valley Community College in Athens, Texas to continue his football career as a wide receiver.

In April, Rush, a freshman defensive back from St. Louis, Missouri was found guilty on one count of criminal trespassing. He remains on Miami’s spring 2021 football roster. 

In February, Sandri, a friend of Mitsopoulos’ who is not associated with Miami, was found guilty on three counts of trespassing and one count of disorderly conduct. According to his social media accounts, he still attends Michigan State University. Sandri’s lawyer, Neal Schuett of Oxford, declined to comment.  

Lawyers of the other three students did not respond to requests for comments. 

All four individuals were required to pay small fines, none exceeding $300, and were ordered to stay away from 310 N. Bishop St., the location of the Theta Chi fraternity house.

Unsettled at Theta Chi

Members of Theta Chi, meanwhile, remain angry about the case and disappointed about the outcome. 

“Knowing that four people were found guilty when there were at least 30 kids involved makes me mad,” said McKiernan. “There should’ve been way more than four kids charged and I believe if they weren’t on the football team there would have been more charges.” 

Several members of Theta Chi appeared in court to testify against the football players. But given the small number of defendants and the minor changes against them, some fraternity members hoped Miami would take action. In October 2020, the football team suspended the three players from the program indefinitely and the university said it was investigating the incident.

“I was surprised how the university handled the situation, especially due to it regarding the safety of its students,” said sophomore Bruno Moreal, a member of the fraternity.  

Some questioned why Rush is back on the football roster.

“I can’t believe they allowed him back on the team after what he was involved in,” said sophomore Geremy Davison. “I’m shocked to hear that.” 

Assistant Athletic Director Dave Meyer and Communications Liaison Lindsay Sparks did not respond to requests for comment. 

In October 2020, Vice President for Student Life Jayne Brownell called the attack “appalling and senseless.” However, Brownell did not respond to a request for comment on this story.

The Oxford Police Department, on the other hand, won high marks from the fraternity.

“I respect the job that Oxford PD did,” McKiernan said. “They were very quick to respond and helpful throughout the process.”