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Status of Eastern Washington football standout Jay-Tee Tiuli uncertain following felony arrest

UPDATED: Thu., Dec. 20, 2018, 6:38 p.m.

Eastern Washington’s Jay-Tee Tiuli sacks Portland State quarterback Davis Alexander during a game on  Nov. 16 in Hillsboro, Oregon. The status of Tiuli remains in doubt following his arrest earlier this month for felony assault. (ROB HILSON / SR)
Eastern Washington’s Jay-Tee Tiuli sacks Portland State quarterback Davis Alexander during a game on Nov. 16 in Hillsboro, Oregon. The status of Tiuli remains in doubt following his arrest earlier this month for felony assault. (ROB HILSON / SR)

The playing status of Eastern Washington star defensive tackle Jay-Tee Tiuli remains in question following his arrest earlier this month for felony assault after a police officer said he witnessed Tiuli kicking his brother in the head.

Tiuli, a 6-foot-4, 320-pound senior from Seattle, was arrested on Dec. 9 on the charge of second-degree assault following the incident, which occurred at 3:30 a.m. in Cheney about a block from the Zip’s Drive-In on 1st Street. The brother was rendered unconscious, according to police.

Tiuli’s arrest came just hours after EWU’s 34-29 FCS quarterfinal win over UC Davis. Tiuli, the Big Sky Conference Defensive Player of the Year, was suspended for EWU’s 50-19 semifinal win over Maine on Dec. 15.

EWU head coach Aaron Best said he doesn’t know if Tiuli will play in the upcoming national championship game on Jan. 5 in Frisco, Texas, against top-ranked North Dakota State (14-0).

“I don’t know at this point,” Best said. “Like I said on Saturday, I can’t speak on it because it’s a university matter. We’re hopeful, but at this point there’s nothing I can say or will say due to the university protocol.”

In the early-morning hours of Dec. 9, Cheney Police Capt. Rick Beghtol said dispatch received a call about an altercation at the Zip’s involving a gun. Officers who responded to the fight never located a weapon at any point during their investigation.

“The guys got called about a fight in progress at Zip’s,” Beghtol said. “They get there and there was already an EWU officer on scene.”

According to the police report, Eastern Washington University Police Officer Nick Bickley arrived and found a man, later identified as Tiuli, kicking a man who was down. The victim was later identified as Ikinofo Tiuli, who is the Eagles football player’s brother, Beghtol said.

Bickley “witnessed Jay-Tee kicking his brother in the head,” Beghtol said. “That’s when the brother lost consciousness.”

Ikinofo Tiuli was bleeding from the nose and mouth. He was later transported to a local hospital for evaluation, Beghtol said.

Under questioning, Jay-Tee Tiuli told the officers that he kicked his brother because his brother previously had “punched him and broke out the window of his car,” Beghtol said. Officers noted that Jay-Tee Tiuli had dried blood on his lips.

The Cheney officers took Tiuli into custody and he was booked early that morning into the Spokane County Jail.

Beghtol didn’t know if someone bailed Tiuli out of jail or whether a judge released him on his own recognizance, but records show that Tiuli was no longer in custody on Monday, Dec. 10.

Despite nearly two weeks since the arrest, the case has not proceeded through Spokane Superior Court. A search of records under Tiuli’s name came up empty.

“It may not have been assigned to a prosecutor,” Beghtol said.

Ryan Collingwood contributed to this story.

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