LOS ANGELES — Southern California coach Steve Sarkisian says the school is investigating defensive back Josh Shaw’s claim that he injured both of his ankles jumping off a balcony to save his nephew from drowning.
Sarkisian said USC has received several calls contradicting Shaw’s story about the circumstances leading to his two high ankle sprains. Shaw’s story was told in a detailed post on the Trojans’ website Monday hailing the team captain’s heroism, but Sarkisian acknowledged USC isn’t exactly sure what happened.
“We’re looking at it,” Sarkisian said after practice Tuesday morning. “Josh is adamant with what occurred, and we’ll continue to vet some of the other stories that have come across our desk or across our phones, and see where we can go from there.”
Lt. Andy Neiman of the Los Angeles Police Department also said Tuesday afternoon that a man named Joshua Shaw was mentioned — but not as a suspect — in a report involving a Saturday night break-in at a downtown apartment building.
Sarkisian said he had “no history to not believe Josh and his story,” but acknowledged the situation was increasingly murky. The first-year USC coach declined to discuss the discrepancies in detail, or the identity of the callers who contradicted the story. Shaw, a fifth-year senior, wasn’t made available to reporters, and he didn’t return a phone call.
Shaw apparently told the school he was at a family party in Palmdale, Calif., when he saw his 7-year-old nephew, Carter, struggling in a pool. According to the website post, Shaw jumped from a second-story balcony onto concrete before dragging himself into the pool and rescuing his nephew, who doesn’t know how to swim.
Although Shaw’s injuries aren’t expected to keep him out for the season, Sarkisian still wants to know exactly how they happened.
“I think it’s important to know your players,” Sarkisian said. “Josh Shaw has been a good leader for us. He’s given me no reason not to believe what he has told us that occurred, but we do need to know. I think it’s important to know in the direction we’re headed.”
In another layer to the confusion, Neiman said LAPD officers answering to a report of a woman screaming in a downtown apartment complex Saturday interviewed a woman inside and several witnesses. USC is on the south end of downtown.
“There is a mention of a Joshua Shaw in this report but not in terms of him being a suspect,” Neiman said. “To make any link at this point would be premature.”
The woman told officers that someone had pried open a window, entered the third-floor apartment and fled, but nothing was taken, he said.
“The victim acknowledged that she had a relationship with a Mr. Shaw,” Neiman added in an email.
The 15th-ranked Trojans open their season Saturday at home against Fresno State.
Shaw, a starting cornerback, is widely regarded as a solid teammate who leads by example, although several Trojans recalled a handful of fiery in-game speeches from Shaw last season. The Florida transfer is a key component of USC’s secondary, considered one of the nation’s best groups.
Shaw had four interceptions while starting 14 games last season, his second with the Trojans. He has played both safety and cornerback, moving around a defense with little depth due to NCAA sanctions.
Shaw is out indefinitely, but Sarkisian said X-rays and MRI exams on the defensive back’s ankles all showed no structural damage. Chris Hawkins and Kevon Seymour will fill in for Shaw during his absence, with freshman Adoree Jackson likely serving as the third cornerback.