Higbee to plead not guilty

Jacob Dick

After an altercation Sunday that left a WKU student hospitalized, Tyler Higbee’s lawyer said the former WKU football player will plead not guilty to charges he faces.

Higbee, a WKU senior, was charged with second-degree assault, second-degree evading police and public intoxication on Sunday morning after allegedly assaulting Nawaf Alsaleh and causing a brain hemorrhage. 

Attorney Brian Lowder of the Bowling Green law office of Lowder & McGill said in an interview Tuesday that Higbee’s actions were in response to a perceived threat.

“This is a case of justified use of force; reasonable force, under the circumstances, based on the physical force used against him and his girlfriend,” Lowder said. “You don’t have to wait until someone hits you to utilize force against them. Mr. Alsaleh made physical contact with [Higbee], shoved his girlfriend and was shouting at him.”

Alsaleh, an international student and sophomore at WKU, was in neural critical care at Tristar Skyline Medical Center in Nashville Wednesday afternoon. An attendant at Skyline said she could not release Alsaleh’s condition because of medical privacy laws.

Alsaleh was unresponsive after the altercation outside Tidball’s music club on Morris Alley early Sunday morning and was initially taken to The Medical Center at Bowling Green, where he was unconscious. He was flown to Skyline on Sunday because of the severity of his injuries.

Eyewitnesses to the altercation and witness statements in the report from Bowling Green police have said that Higbee and others with him used racial slurs regarding Alsaleh’s Arabic heritage.

“Just because something is released in a police report or someone makes a statement, doesn’t mean it is true,” Lowder said. “We haven’t been able to cross-examine the witnesses yet, one of which was anonymous.”

Lowder said accusations that Higbee’s actions were racially motivated and that he evaded police are unfounded.

“The truth will come out; it’s a long process,” Lowder said. “At the end of the day, we believe it will be apparent these statements aren’t factual.”

When asked about how the responding officer’s description of the bias motivation as “anti-Islamic” in the police report would affect the case, Lowder said it was still unclear.

“I can’t say how the case will be processed or if someone will want to charge him with something else,” Lowder said.

In previous statements released by Lowder and published by Bowling Green Daily News, he brought attention to Alsaleh’s two arrests in Bowling Green.

Alsaleh was most recently arrested on Feb. 20 for driving under the influence of alcohol and a bench warrant was issued for his arrest on March 2.

“Alsaleh has a previous record of making bad decisions under the influence of alcohol,” Lowder said. “[Higbee] has no criminal record other than traffic citations.”

Higbee has a record of two traffic citations in Tarpon Springs, Florida, according to the Tarpon Springs Police Department. 

The arresting officer from Sunday night wrote that Higbee was intoxicated enough to be a danger to himself and others in the report of the incident.