Track Coach Speaks After Arrest on Trip

Homestead coach says he didn't know license was suspended

By Gilma Avalos and Brian Hamacher
|  Tuesday, Apr 10, 2012  |  Updated 1:12 PM EDT
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Walter Chambliss, assistant track coach for Homestead Senior High School, talks about his arrest in Fort Pierce while driving students to a meet in Gainesville. Two of his student athletes, Demetri and Eldrick Wilson, and their father, Clayrinski Wilson, also discuss the incident.

Walter Chambliss, assistant track coach for Homestead Senior High School, talks about his arrest in Fort Pierce while driving students to a meet in Gainesville. Two of his student athletes, Demetri and Eldrick Wilson, and their father, Clayrinski Wilson, also discuss the incident.

The Homestead Senior High assistant track coach who was arrested while driving students to a meet in Gainesville says he had no idea his license was suspended.

Walter Chambliss, 26, was arrested after he was clocked driving 86 mph in a 70 mph zone on State Road 91 in Fort Pierce Friday, according to a Florida Highway Police report.

The report says Chambliss didn't have his license on him. When he gave police his name and social security number, they noticed he had a number of suspensions for failing to pay tickets and failing to appear in court.

Chambliss wasn't authorized to drive the rental car he and the students were in, so it was towed. Had the students not called their parents, they would have been stranded on the side of the road.

Speaking with NBC 6 Monday night, Chambliss said the incident has cast a shadow on all the positive things he does for the students.

"All I see is my picture in handcuffs but I don't see the real me, the guy who gets these kids in school the guy who contacts these colleges," Chambliss said.

Chambliss claims he had no idea he was driving with a suspended license, adding he had been under the impression his lawyer had taken care of the problem.

"He paid all my tickets and was supposed to re-instate my license. Come to find out there were court fees after my tickets were paid," Chambliss said.

Clayrinski Wilson, father of Demetri and Eldrick Wilson, who were on the trip with Chambliss, said he was upset with the school and the Florida Highway Patrol over the incident.

"I pretty much begged the state trooper to take them to the next exit," Wilson said.

"It was quite frightening, the whole time I was just thinking how are we going to get home," said 16-year-old Eldrick.

The brothers said they were split up -- one rode with a total stranger and the other in the back of a police car.

"They put me with one teammate and my brother with another teammate. He was in the state trooper's car and I had to go with my teammate in the tow truck," said 18-year-old Demetri.

Mr. Wilson says he was under the impression that this was a school field trip and tried to call the athletic director at Homestead Senior High to help bring the boys home.

"He said he didn't know anything that was going on and offered me no assistance to get them back home," said Mr. Wilson.

The boys say they were dropped off at a gas station where relatives arranged to pick them up.

"There were no district events on Friday or Saturday because of the Holiday. The trip was not sanctioned by the school or district," Miami-Dade Public Schools said in a statement released Monday. "The assistant coach approached some parents and asked their permission to take the students."

Chambliss said he took the students upstate as a mentor, not a school employee.

"The facts still remain, they have and they did leave the kids on the side of the road and didn't try to get them back home," said Clayrinski Wilson. He said he requested that his children speak to a school counselor about the traumatic experience, and said that request had not been fulfilled by Monday afternoon.

The coach says he hopes to clear his name and keep his job. Miami-Dade County Public Schools says it is conducting a thorough review of all the records involved through the office of professional standards before making a decision.

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