Lacrosse, to hear historians tell it, has always been a high-energy, high-contact sport. Reports of injuries from slashing sticks, head-butts and spiked shoes date back to the Aboriginal Canadian game that served as lacrosse’s inspiration.
In an alleged case of one lacrosse team’s bonding taken to a bloody extreme, however, the violence was not aimed at humans but at a small animal, possibly a guinea pig.
At least 10 members of a high school lacrosse team in Michigan have been questioned about the possible guinea pig slaying, Detroit’s Fox 2 news reports. A few students purportedly painted their faces with the animal’s blood. The Grosse Ile High School lacrosse players, an unnamed source tells Fox 2, killed the animal prior to a match earlier in May. Whatever the Grosse Ile Red Devils were hoping to achieve, it failed, as the rival Dexter Dreadnaughts won 13 to 6.
On Monday, an individual approached the Grosse Ile School District with “information that one or more members of the District’s lacrosse team engaged in cruelty to an animal,” reads a statement from the superintendent, Joanne Lelekatch, which was reprinted by the Detroit-area news outlet Local 4.
The allegations were also reiterated by officials who are now investigating the possible guinea pig death. “Allegedly some of the team members got together before a game and killed an animal,” Joseph Porcerelli, the chief of police for Grosse Ile Township, wrote in an e-mail to the Detroit Free Press. “This incident is an open investigation.”
The Grosse Ile Township’s police department confirmed via phone to The Washington Post that there is an ongoing investigation into the lacrosse team, but declined to comment further.
If the animal was indeed a guinea pig or another vertebrate, it is protected from cruelty under Michigan law. According to the state’s penal code, the “owner, possessor, or person having the charge or custody of an animal shall not” beat the animal, nor “negligently allow any animal, including one who is aged, diseased, maimed, hopelessly sick, disabled, or nonambulatory to suffer unnecessary neglect, torture, or pain.” Last winter, a Michigan woman plead guilty to animal cruelty charges after abandoning her pets, including a guinea pig that starved to death.
Parents and students in the township told Local 4 that several, but not all, of the lacrosse players were involved in a “sacrifice” of the animal, going as far to claim that a few smeared their faces with its remains; one member of the Red Devils, according to the allegations, ingested the animal’s blood.
All further Red Devils lacrosse games have been suspended, said superintendent Lelekatch, pending the results of the police investigation. Grosse Ile local Michael Goddard told television station WJBK, “If that’s what happened, I think maybe more than suspension should happen. That’s the serial killer kind of stuff.” (Though there is evidence that animal abuse is correlated with violent crime, not all animal abusers are a danger to humans.)
It is not the first time high school athletes have been accused of animal sacrifice. In 2011, a pair of teenage baseball players in Texas were charged with animal cruelty after killing two baby chickens. Both were dismissed from the sports team.