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Heartland referee speaks out after attack

Published: Nov. 2, 2021 at 11:37 PM CDT|Updated: Nov. 2, 2021 at 11:41 PM CDT
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CAPE GIRARDEAU, Mo. (KFVS) - A Heartland basketball referee is rethinking his time on the court after being attacked in the parking lot.

“I look around every corner now. You don’t know what people do,” said Eric Johnson.

Johnson used to love his job of refereeing.

He said that changed after he was attack following a Puxico and Twin Rivers Jr. High School basketball game he refereed Thursday night, October 28.

“Verbal is one thing, but the physical attacks are just totally unacceptable,” said Johnson.

Puxico Police Chief Rick Sheren said they received a call at about 9 p.m. about an assault at the FEMA parking lot.

Joshua Lilly, of Qulin, was arrested and is facing third degree assault charges.

In a probable cause statement made by the Puxico Police Department it states, “Joshua Lilly hit Eric Johnson in the mouth causing him to fall to the ground, Lilly then hit Johnson two more times on the right side behind the ear causing physical injury to Johnson.”

“Reports were taken, investigation was conducted warrants were applied for Joshua Lilly, of Qulin,” said Chief Sheren. “Warrant was received, he was arrested by Butler County Sheriff’s Department on $7,500 bond.”

After a decade of refereeing, Johnson shared he doesn’t plan to ref another basketball game again.

“Which is sad because I love it so much but the one night just took the love right out of it,” said Johnson.

Johnson hopes to never to see or hear another incident like this, for the sake of the referees, parents and the players.

“It’s about the kids and you’re running the officials off and your kids are not going to get to reap the rewards of having the extracurricular activities,” said Johnson.

Lilly’s attorney did not wish to comment.

Police said Lily has been released on bond.

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