Police officers responded to a domestic disturbance in Downtown Columbus Tuesday afternoon after a mother reported a fight between her husband and their 16-year-old son. Cindy Buob called Lowndes County E-911 to request that an officer respond to her home to help quell a heated argument between her husband, Dr. Tom Velek, and their teenage son, Avery Velek. When Officer Andres Rodriguez arrived at the home on 4th Avenue South, Avery Velek fled the scene on foot, running west towards the river. Other officers responded to the area in an attempt to intercept the teen. Officer David Hunt made contact with the runner near the intersection of 1st Street and 5th Avenue South. In an attempt to evade police, Avery Velek plunged down the steep riverbank, running through heavy brush before diving into the Tenn-Tom.
Hunt followed the teen to the water, where he found the boy unable to get back up the steep embankment. In an effort to retrieve him from the water, Columbus Fire and Rescue was contacted to respond to the Riverwalk boat ramp with a rescue craft. Rescuers entered the water upstream of Avery Velek’s location and quickly made their way to the boy. Once the runner was in the boat, he was fitted with a life vest and the boat made its way back to the Riverwalk where police, fire and medical personnel waited with his parents and representatives of the local media.
Upon spotting the news cameras awaiting his arrival, the teen dove back into the muddy water and discarded his floatation device. Avoiding the hands of his would-be rescuers, the boy swam to the opposite bank of the waterway. The boat crew attempted to follow him, but were forced to stay back from the shallow waters near the bank.
When Avery Velek reached the bank, he stopped for a short breather before doing a few stretches to limber up. He then sprinted toward a nearby stand of trees while peeling off his soaked shirt. Several responders rushed to intercept the runner across the river on the island while Officer Hunt and Neal Austen with Fire and Rescue joined the boat crew in a quick dash across the water. Avery Velek was quickly in custody. He was fitted with another life vest and a pair of handcuffs (for his own safety.) The rescuers laid the boy down in the boat to prevent another escape.
The teen was brought to the Riverwalk where a crowd awaited his arrival. EMTs checked the boy for injuries. Once given medical clearance, Hunt escorted Avery Velek to the Columbus Police Department. It is unclear why he ran from police.
While Avery Velek was in the river, his parents were otherwise preoccupied with keeping the media away from the situation. Before Columbus Fire and Rescue was called to the river, Dr. Velek took it upon himself to order reporters to leave the scene. He informed media personnel from The Packet and WCBI that, “We don’t need that. You’re not filming my son.” He then stood inches from the WCBI photographer in an effort to prevent the use of a camera. When informed that there was was no stopping it from happening, he growled,“Oh,I’ll stop it.” Dr.Velek then attempted to push the Packet photographer back from the scene. Officers were alerted to the altercation and Dr. Velek was ordered back from the press.
Dr. Velek then stood several feet away, hurling insults at the Packet reporter. He started with, “You’re a parasite. Just a fat droid parasite.” He then moved on to threats, telling police officers, “If he takes my photo or my son’s photo, I’m going to kick the s**t out of him.” He then turned back to the reporter and stated, “You’re going to get a real good story here, f***face.”
Dr. Velek is a history professor at the Mississippi University for Women. He is also the director of the Ina E. Gordy Honors College and coordinator of the Study Abroad program. Additionally, he is the Director of Competitive Soccer with the Columbus Lowndes Recreational Authority, as well as the Director of Coaching and the head coach for the Columbus United U14, U16 and U17 Boys teams. He also serves as the ODP Player Evaluator and the MSA Coaching Instructor. In years past, he has been recognized as US Soccer National Coach of the Year (2012), Southeastern Regional Coach of the Year and MS State Coach of the Year.
Avery Velek (who plays for his father in the U16 Boys team) recently made the state Olympic Development Team for the third year in a row.
[I’d like to thank Dr. Velek. Had he not shown up to threaten myself and a WCBI photographer while wearing his Columbus United shirt (go team!), I would have had a much harder time identifying his son, Avery. As it turns out, Dr. Velek’s overzealousness led me straight to the information I needed. Otherwise, young Avery would have been listed as simply “an unidentified teen.” JD]
From beginning to end, the Velek circus tied up a significant portion of the city’s emergency resources. Ten firefighters, along with one battalion chief, were on scene manning two tankers, one ladder truck, three passenger vehicles and one boat. An ambulance was held at the Riverwalk in the event that Avery Velek suffered serious injury in his ill advised flight from police. Six police officers responded to the area from the time that the teen started running, most continuing to help with the rescue efforts afterwards. With this much manpower taken out of rotation, the people of Columbus were fortunate that no serious emergencies took place during the fiasco. The total cost to the city has not yet been tallied.40