That thunderous thud you may have heard Thursday afternoon was the other shoe finally dropping in the Ooltewah High School sexual assault case concerning what three of the school's older basketball players allegedly did to four of their freshman teammates.
And if Hamilton County District Attorney Neal Pinkston's filed charges are proven true that Owls basketball coach Andre "Tank" Montgomery, assistant coach Karl Williams and Ooltewah athletic director Jesse Nayadley failed to report child abuse or suspected child sexual abuse, that symbolic shoe could make Shaquille O'Neal's size-23 sneakers look like baby booties.
As first reported by this newspaper's Kendi Anderson on our website, Hamilton County Sheriff's Department detective Mickey Roundtree wrote of his investigation: "Four freshman basketball players were subjected to assaultive behavior, including but not limited to being struck with pool cues and also these four freshman basketball players were subjected to apparent sexual assault."
Read that again: "Four freshman basketball players were subjected to "
Not one, as previously reported, though there is no mention from Roundtree that more than one of those players was raped by having a pool cue shoved up his rectum. Four. Roundtree mentioned four freshmen, their lives quite probably forever altered by a single event that possibly could have been prevented by more cautious, hands-on adults.
If nothing else, DA Pinkston apparently surmised that such abhorrent behavior certainly should have been reported to proper authorities rather than Ooltewah High administrators and coaches allegedly attempting to handle it internally.
Added Roundtree in his report: "I was informed by the Department of Children's Services that no one within the Ooltewah High School administration, coaching staff or other staff ever notified the Department of Children's Services of this incident."
From gross inaction such as that have rampant rumors become concrete complaints. From charges such as these has the blueprint to rid Ooltewah High of Montgomery, Williams and Nayadley — and quite possibly a few folks currently above them in the food chain — now been revealed.
This is not to say that charges are convictions. The lawyers for both sides are about to take over. And none of us should want it any other way, however much it slows the closure our county probably feels it desperately needs over this tragedy.
If you were facing the scary, uncertain future that now surely haunts Montgomery, Williams, Nayadley (and possibly others), you'd want capable attorneys to defend you. That's the law in this great nation, and it's a good one.
But there also needs to be justice for these victims, and the strongest message possible sent to all that this never be allowed to happen again to a single one of our young people.
In yet another of the excellent articles that Anderson has written on this mess, she interviewed students who are members of UnifiEd's Student Voice Team, a group of about 20 students from across the county who research and advocate for issues in public education.
In researching the school district's bullying and harassment policies, the group discovered that Hamilton County fell short of state standards set by lawmakers. At the top of those shortcomings is the absence of a way for students to anonymously report such incidents.
In what surely will haunt him in the future, when school board attorney Scott Bennett was asked Wednesday by this newspaper about those harassment and bullying policies not being in compliance, he responded in an email: "Way too busy to look at this now."
Some might argue that it is that mindset that has allowed this entire incident to mushroom into the scandal and embarrassment it has become.
Contact Mark Wiedmer at firstname.lastname@example.org