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Fighting Irish: Police say Notre Dame QB Tommy Rees knees cop

This booking phoreleased Thursday May 3 2012 by St. Joseph County Police shows Tommy Rees. Police say Notre Dame quarterback

This booking photo released Thursday, May 3, 2012 by the St. Joseph County Police shows Tommy Rees. Police say Notre Dame quarterback Tommy Rees knocked the wind out of an officer who chased him down after an off-campus house party early Thursday and was pepper-sprayed while being arrested, in South Bend, Ind. Rees was jailed on a preliminary felony charge of battery on a police officer and misdemeanor resisting arrest and alcohol charges. (AP Photo/St. Joseph County Police)

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Updated: June 5, 2012 11:33AM

SOUTH BEND, Ind. — Notre Dame’s 19-year-old quarterback Tommy Rees was hit with four misdemeanors — but escaped a felony charge — after wheeling around and kneeing a South Bend cop in the gut while trying to flee a rowdy off-campus party early Thursday, police said.

The 6-foot-2, 210-pound incoming junior had a blood alcohol level of .011 when he knocked the wind out of the officer before falling to the ground with him and scuffling, police said.

The Lake Bluff native ended up pepper-sprayed, cuffed, arrested — and facing a meeting with Fighting Irish Coach Brian Kelly.

Teammate Carlos Calabrese, a linebacker from New Jersey, will have a meeting of his own with the fiery coach after police said he came to Rees’ defense, threatened officers twice with a “My people are gonna get you” taunt and got locked up for his efforts.

Calabrese, 21, also was drunk, police said, ringing up a .12 blood alcohol level. He had asked the officers: “Why aren’t you a Notre Dame supporter,” and “Why are you doing this to my teammate,” police said.

“I am aware of last night’s incident involving two of our football players,” Kelly said in a statement. “I am of course very concerned given the nature of the allegations but I am still gathering information. I’ll withhold judgment until I can collect all the facts and speak with both Carlos and Tommy.”

Rees had faced a preliminary charge of felony battery on a police officer, which would have required him to stay in jail until being arraigned before a judge. But prosecutors instead opted for misdemeanors, and he was released on a $250 cash bond.

He was charged with one count of battery, two counts of resisting law enforcement and one count of illegal consumption of alcohol by a minor.

Calabrese was arrested on a misdemeanor charge of public intoxication and released after posting $150 bond.

It all played out outside a raucous party that followed the last day of Notre Dame’s spring semester classes.

The bash was in two-story clapboard home on South Bend’s east side — a neighborhood where beat-up rental houses filled with college kids sit side-by-side with family homes.

Neighbors said the party Rees attended was loud, but not out of control. Partygoers had spilled out of the house and into the front yard. Someone upset about the noise called police, making a point of saying Notre Dame players were there.

A man who lives next door said it never got so loud that he wanted to call the police.

“I do not want to give any bad impressions of these young men who live there because they have not been disrespectful or unruly or anything,” said the neighbor, who didn’t want his name used.

“It wasn’t that big of a party,” said another neighbor, Jim Lynch, 35. “It was just loud. I was at U. of I. Bloomington, and them parties were huge. This was nothing.”

As police moved to break it up at 12:30 a.m. Thursday, people began to flee. Officers could hear a rickety fence breaking, and checked it out.

“They’re trying to climb the fence, but you could hear the slats breaking,” said South Bend Police Capt. Phil Trent, a department spokesman.

Officer Brandon Stec chased Rees into the street, continually saying he was a police officer and telling him to stop, but Rees refused, according to an affidavit filed in the case.

A passing taxi driver heard Stec ordering Rees to stop and maneuvered his car to block Rees’ path, the affidavit said.

That’s when Rees turned to take him on, according to authorities.

“Rees spins and puts a knee into the officer and knocks the wind out of him,” Trent said.

Stec, still holding onto Rees, fell to the pavement, dragging the player down with him, Trent said. Rees continued to struggle on the ground with the officer, who then pepper-sprayed him, Trent said.

Even after Rees and the officer got back on their feet, the quarterback continued trying to pull away until he was handcuffed, Trent said. The officer scraped his arm during the struggle but didn’t require medical attention.

Calabrese was watching the dustup and tried to intervene before being pulled away by other partygoers, Trent said. He was arrested after twice making his threatening remarks to a sergeant, Trent said.

Police weren’t aware of Rees’ identity until he was arrested, Trent said.

“The officer had absolutely no clue who he was chasing,” Trent said.

Rees’ arrest complicates the quarterback race for the Irish. He was locked in a four-way competition for the job with Everett Golson, Gunner Kiel and Andrew Hendrix.

Rees started 12 of 13 games for Notre Dame last year, leading them to an 8-5 record. He took over the job from Dayne Crist after Kelly pulled Crist from the season opener against South Florida. Kelly had praised Rees in spring practice for his solidifying his command of the offense and for trying to run the ball on occasion — something Rees rarely did when his protection broke down in 16 games as a starter.

Golson, however, was more impressive than either Hendrix or Rees in the spring game, completing 11-of-15 passes for 120 yards. Rees was 7-of-14 for 84 yards with an interception. Kelly was critical of Golson, though, for not knowing the signals well enough. He said then that whichever quarterback mastered the details of his offense over the summer would have an inside track on the starting job.

It’s not clear how Kelly — or if Kelly — will mete out discipline for the arrest after the legal proceedings play out.

In a change from past precedent, wide receiver Michael Floyd was suspended last year by Kelly for operating a car under the influence. Floyd’s arrest occurred in March and he was reinstated just before training camp. Before Floyd’s suspension, Residence Life doled out discipline for infractions that violated the student handbook.

Contributing: Dan McGrath, AP

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