Neal met with police; no mention of death threats

UNM's head coach Craig Neal has a few words with his son Cullen Neal toward the end of the game against Nevada in December. (Jim Thompson/Albuquerque Journal)

UNM’s head coach Craig Neal has a few words with his son Cullen Neal toward the end of the game against Nevada in December. (Jim Thompson/Albuquerque Journal)

Copyright © 2016 Albuquerque Journal

University of New Mexico Police met with Lobos men’s basketball coach Craig Neal on Sunday, at which time he never mentioned death threats against his son, the lead investigator said Tuesday.

Instead, Neal described harassment his son, basketball point guard Cullen Neal, faced on social media, said Lt. Tim Stump.

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Stump said he, coach Neal, UNM Deputy Police Chief Christine Chester, athletic director Paul Krebs and deputy athletic director Janice Ruggiero met at the Pit on Sunday.

The meeting was called after Neal said in a news conference last week that his son had received “death threats.”

Cullen Neal, 21, a sophomore redshirt from Eldorado High, has been the subject of controversy for his role on the UNM team and, at the news conference, Craig Neal talked in length about how hard the fan criticism has been on Cullen.

“Walk in his shoes for one day. It’s not fair that you get threats and you get death threats. It’s not right,” he said.

Coach Neal has declined to discuss the threats further.

“We met with coach Neal on Sunday, and they are not filing a police report at this time,” said Stump, the lead investigator for the school’s police department. “We did make resources available to him. If anything else arises, we’ll just take it from the there.”

When asked if Craig Neal mentioned any specific death threats during the meeting, Stump said. “No. No.”

“They’re vague,” Stump said, “and there were just a multitude of, I think, different types of threats and different types of harassment that have been going on for some time.”

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He said it was mostly cyber harassment.

When a Journal reporter asked Stump if police specifically asked if there were death threats, Stump said, “We asked what the contents were. … It was just more of a ‘Watch yourself,’ not alluding to anything specific. Obviously a coach, or a dad, is going to look at it and think that it’s more than it is.”

According to Stump, Craig said Cullen “changed (his phone) number, so we couldn’t get back to it and nothing was saved for us.”

Craig Neal did not show any messages or tweets from Cullen’s phone or other device to demonstrate harassment or threats, said Stump.

UNM basketball coach Craig Neal, right, said last week that son Cullen, left, has received death threats. But he hasn't told police that. (Roberto E. Rosales/Albuquerque Journal)

UNM basketball coach Craig Neal, right, said last week that son Cullen, left, has received death threats. But he hasn’t told police that. (Roberto E. Rosales/Albuquerque Journal)

He said the coach told the police his son had been harassed.

Asked if the police department had the tools to hunt somebody down through the cyber world, Stump said, “that’s correct, that’s what we let him know. We have people trained to be connected with Twitter, or ‘Cullen Neal’ or ‘UNM,’ that it would raise our awareness.

“We let him know that in the future, if anything comes up, to immediately get a hold of us. He has our contact numbers. And we told him to get a hold of us right away.”

On Friday, Krebs told the Journal he would encourage the Neals to meet with police, after Craig Neal made the death threat allegations. On Tuesday, the Journal asked Krebs for a comment on Sunday’s meeting, but Krebs, by text, said “I can confirm Coach Neal met with UNM PD to discuss the threats on Cullen.”

Krebs also texted, “Really don’t have much more to say.”

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During last week’s news conference, after Neal first mentioned that Cullen had received threats, a media member asked if there were actual death threats.

Neal responded: “I’ll just put it this way – when you have to change your phone number twice and you have to shut down your Twitter account and you have to shut your Facebook down, it’s sad.”

On Friday, both the UNM police department and Albuquerque Police Department said no reports had been filed.

On Tuesday, a Journal request for an interview with Craig Neal about the situation was denied.

“Coach … is no longer commenting on that situation,” Eugene Canal of the UNM sports information department responded by text message.

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