UPPER ARLINGTON, Ohio (AP) — Olympic gymnastics champion Paul Hamm has been accused of hitting and kicking a taxi driver in suburban Columbus, damaging a cab window and refusing to pay a $23 fare.
The 28-year-old Hamm can be heard on an Upper Arlington police video telling an officer he’d had about eight drinks, WBNS-TV in Columbus reported. As Hamm sits handcuffed in the back of a cruiser, he asks officers to let him go and says, “I don’t understand. I’m gonna kill you guys.”
Hamm, who is working as an assistant coach at Ohio State while he trains for the London Olympics, is charged with assault and two other misdemeanors. He was charged Saturday and is free on bond awaiting a Sept. 15 arraignment, according to online court records. His agent, Sheryl Shade, declined to comment Wednesday.
“We have read about the unfortunate situation involving Paul Hamm in media reports, and we are certainly concerned for Paul,” USA Gymnastics President Steve Penny said. “USA Gymnastics will wait for more information before commenting further.”
Ohio State told the station that officials were aware of the arrest and would determine how to handle the matter after it is dealt with in court.
Hamm, who grew up in Waukesha, Wis., is the only American man to win the Olympic (2004) or world (2003) all-around titles. The three-time Olympic medalist missed the Beijing Games with an injury, then got a job in Chicago as a finance trader. But he quit his job last summer and announced a comeback in hopes of making the U.S. team for London. Hamm is recuperating from January shoulder surgery, but is expected to return to competition in February in what would be a boost for the U.S. men’s medal hopes.
Hamm returned to Ohio State, where he and twin brother Morgan earned their degrees and trained before the Beijing Olympics, earlier this summer as an assistant to new coach Rustam Sharipov.
WBNS says a police report shows Hamm had fallen asleep as he was being driven home in the taxi.
The taxi driver, identified by the station as Abdinasir Elmi, told a reporter that Hamm had unintentionally locked the cab door and was trying to get out through the window. He said Hamm swore at him and elbowed him in the mouth as he tried to help him open the window.
Messages seeking additional details were left with Upper Arlington police spokeswomen.
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