Pastor arrested after referee scuffle

by: Tom Jones Updated:

Rev. Eddie Velez, who once ministered at a well-known megachurch was arrested on charges of attacking a referee at Chamblee High School during a girls' basketball game.

CHAMBLEE, Ga. - A pastor who once ministered at a well-known megachurch was arrested on charges of attacking a referee at Chamblee High School during a girls' basketball game.

The referee is concerned he's been suspended from officiating because he defended himself.

Rev. Eddie Velez calls himself "the Preaching Puerto Rican." But referee Eddie Jester calls him the punching preacher.

"I've been referring 26 years. I've never had no one come onto the floor and attack me," Jester said.

Jester had Velez arrested after he said the former New Birth Missionary Baptist Church pastor came on the court and hit him.

Velez now faces a simple battery charge. Jester said it all began after another referee ordered Velez ejected from the gym because he was unruly.

Jester said as Velez walked by him, "He put his hand on my shoulder. And smacked me in the chest and said, 'You a punk.'"

Jester said his instincts immediately took over.

"And I just went straight to his face with a punch," he said.

Channel 2's Tom Jones tried to get Velez's side of the story so he called him.

"Eddie Velez," he said as he answered the phone.

"Can you just tell my why what happened, happened?" Jones asked

Velez said he would call back but instead his attorney called.

She said Velez only touched the referee on the shoulder and the ref punched him. She said Velez will plead not guilty and he was not the aggressor that day.

Jester is upset that resource officers at the game didn't arrest Velez. He had to swear out a warrant.

A judge listened to both sides and decided to have Velez arrested.

"Everybody's telling me he's a minister. And I'm saying he got to have better leadership skills than that," Jester said.

The school system said the principal made the choice not to have Velez arrested because she didn't think it was fair that he would be arrested and the referee wouldn't.

Jester is also upset he had been removed from officiating playoff games, something he said he's been chosen to do for many years. He thinks it's because he defended himself.

Ralph Swearingen with the Georgia High School Association said Jester has been removed from officiating while his agency investigates. He also said its unprofessional behavior for a referee to retaliate after being attacked if there are other avenues to avoid further confrontation.

Jester said it's not that easy.

"Your natural attack mode comes in. What you're telling me is I cannot defend myself if someone comes out on the court and attacks me, I got to stand there and take a beating," Jester said.



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