Despite pleas from other fans urging him to stop, Robert Hopkins kept sliding down a railing in the upper deck of Ralph Wilson Stadium, according to a fan who was at the Nov. 17 Buffalo Bills game against the New York Jets.
Jon Deeks, who sat in the same section as Hopkins, testified Friday in Orchard Park Town Court that he saw Hopkins slide on the railing. During Hopkins’ third or fourth slide, Deeks said he heard a woman plead with him to stop. Other fans in the section told him to stop, too, Deeks said.
Deeks also asked Hopkins to stop.
“Could you please stop doing this?” he said he asked, in a tone of voice that could be heard above the crowd noise.
Hopkins fell over the edge on his fifth slide and landed on and severely injured a fan in the level below.
The fans’ pleas didn’t stop Hopkins, Deeks said.
“From what I saw, he was just brushing it off because he continued doing it,” Deeks said.
Stadium video surveillance of the incident revealed that Hopkins slid partway down the metal railing on the edge of Section 339 and climbed back up to his seat multiple times before falling backward on his fifth attempt. He tumbled 20 to 25 feet and struck Mark Bratcher, 29, in the 200 level.
The day’s final witness was Jeffrey Ely, who works with the sheriff’s office’s crash investigation unit. Ely testified that an investigation last month found that Hopkins was falling at a speed of 24.35 mph when he struck Bratcher.
Hopkins, 29, of Buffalo was charged with third-degree assault and second-degree reckless endangerment, both misdemeanors. If convicted, he could face up to a year in jail.
Brian Doyle, a retired sheriff’s deputy working on a part-time basis at the stadium the day of the incident, testified that he spoke with Hopkins soon after the fall.
Doyle had heard that Hopkins slid down the railing, and asked him if the rumor was true.
“It’s true,” Hopkins replied, according to Doyle. “I feel so bad. I didn’t mean to.”
When the deputy turned to walk away, Hopkins added, “The funny part is, I did it like nine times.”
Doyle testified that Hopkins also produced a brief written statement.
“I was intoxicated and had lost my grip ... I didn’t mean to ... I’m sorry,” the statement read.
The fall happened sometime between the end of the game’s first quarter and the beginning of the second.
Deeks was the second fan from Section 339 to testify.
On Thursday, Glenn Attanasio said he saw Hopkins slide five times during a span of up to 10 minutes. Attanasio said he heard someone say loudly, “Stop that, you’re gonna hurt yourself, you’re gonna fall,” and another shout, “You’re gonna kill yourself.”
Nine witnesses testified Thursday, including Bratcher, a middle school social studies teacher at South Buffalo Charter School. He described the impact as a “crushing blow” and added “the pain’s with me still today.” He suffered injuries to his neck, back and shoulders.
After the incident, Hopkins lost his job in advertising and public relations with Eric Mower + Associates and was banned from the stadium.
The trial resumes at 9 a.m. Tuesday. One more witness, a neurosurgeon, is expected to testify.