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Father defends conduct at Pepsi Center Says he sought help from staff before acting

A 38-year-old Lockport father arrested Friday after dragging a 10-year-old off the ice at the Amherst Pepsi Center for repeatedly firing pucks at him and near his small son said Monday he tried several times to get help from staff first.

But Charles M. Schmidl said he couldn't find anyone.

"There wasn't a soul in there," said Schmidl, who was charged with endangering the welfare of a child, a misdemeanor, and harassment, a violation.

Schmidl said he took matters into his own hands only after the 10-year-old continued to shoot pucks toward him and his 5-year-old son after the older boy was asked to stop, then taunted Schmidl and told him he should go see a psychologist.

He said he scanned the rink several times first, looking for an employee to help. At one point, he said, he became so concerned that he left the ice with his son to seek out a supervisor.

None could be found, he said. It wasn't until about the time the police appeared -- about 35 minutes into the incident -- that a supervisor finally showed up, he said.

Police said they were called to the scene by the 10-year-old's mother.

Schmidl said he never saw any sign of her until he had dragged the boy off the ice to a cashier, the only Pepsi Center employee he could find.

The cashier called a maintenance employee, who showed up and then called a supervisor, the Lockport father said.

Schmidl's comments came as Amherst Supervisor Satish B. Mohan was preparing to ask for a review of the incident, saying it should never have been allowed to occur.

"It has created a great deal of concern for me," Mohan said. The town runs the Pepsi Center.

Mohan said he is considering whether "rink guards" -- the equivalent of lifeguards devoted only to the center's ice rinks -- should be assigned to the facility.

"This is a real eye-opener for us. We have to see that it doesn't ever happen again," Mohan said.

Exactly what happened is unclear.

The 10-year-old boy's father talked with The Buffalo News on Monday night on the condition his name not be used. He said others at the rink told him Schmidl overreacted and became belligerent when a puck hit him on the foot.

Others at the rink told the 10-year-old's father afterward they didn't want to get involved because they thought it was "a family thing" involving a father who was disciplining his son, the man said.

He said police were called after his wife came out of the bathroom to see Schmidl holding the 10-year-old in a headlock and those at the rink discovered Schmidl wasn't the boy's father.

"He had him in a chokehold, and he was dragging my son across floor of the lobby," the man said.

The incident started at about 10 a.m. Friday during an open hockey-skills practice in the Pepsi Center.

Schmidl said he and his son had been on the ice for about 10 minutes, practicing basic hockey skills but staying away from the nets. Schmidl said a stray puck shot by the 10-year-old hit him in the boot. He said he asked the youngster to be careful and that his response was, "Shut up you a__hole. What are you going to do about it?'"

He said he told the boy, "You better not hit my son" and that the boy replied, "What's wrong with you? You need to see a psychologist."

The problem continued; Schmidl said he collected eight pucks aimed at him by the youngster from about 20 feet way. Another shot hit him in the leg area, and a third hit him in the back, he said.

Schmidl said it only got worse after he left the ice with his son to seek help. When he returned, having failed to locate any employees, the 10-year-old was flanked by two other youngsters.

He said they joined in the taunting.

Schmidl then grabbed the boy by his shirt and pulled him off the ice, causing what appeared to be redness around his neck.

That's when the 10-year-old's mother came out of the bathroom and police were called.

Schmidl was given a ticket to appear May 8 in Amherst Town Court. Both he and the 10-year-old, whose name was not released because he is a minor, were told by staff to stay away from the facility.

News staff reporter Thomas J. Dolan contributed to this story.

e-mail: ncervantes@buffnews.com

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