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Coach accused of punishing players

Posted at 11:01 PM, May 26, 2016
and last updated 2016-05-26 23:01:03-04

Controversy surrounding a North Fort Myers High School coach is heating up. Tavaris Gary is now accused of retaliating against students after he abandoned them in LaBelle after a baseball game.

The Lee County School District investigated Gary and found he not only stranded his players, he also failed to report drugs he found on another one.

Marcus Madrigal is the father of 15 year old Jean Marc, one of the students who was stranded in LaBelle.

He says, "I don't think he'll be playing baseball next year if this coach is still around."

Madrigal wants to know why his son's baseball coach hasn't been sidelined by school administrators for what he did.

He says, "I would be happy if he's fired."

Gary is a North Fort Myers High School coach and a teacher. After a late night game in LaBelle this past February, Gary failed to do a head count of his players.

As a result, two were left behind at LaBelle High. Madrigal says he was particularly concerned since his son had recently moved to Florida from Texas and wasn’t familiar with any town in Southwest Florida, let alone LaBelle.

Madrigal tells us, "You leave him in LaBelle, out in LaBelle, country, nothing, street lights that's it. He don't know where he's at."

Even worse, Madrigal claims Gary disciplined his son the day after the incident. He says, "He got punished the next day, he had to run for the whole practice. Him and the other kid ran the whole day."

Madrigal says he then demanded answers from high school officials and even tried speaking with the district's superintendent but wasn’t allowed to.

He feels, "The school district is a failure, a big failure." Because he complained, Madrigal feels Gary benched his son for the rest of the season, saying, "I've had people ask me if I feel like my son's going to get more retaliation ever since I'm doing these interviews. I don't care."

Gary didn't return our calls but did post our report and some strongly worded comments on Facebook.

It shows him blaming the students for getting stranded saying: "They told me and the other coaches that their ride was on the way to get them."

He calls those who criticize him "Racist" claiming they are "trying to get me fired". Madrigal says he’s no racist.

This new controversy comes one year after an image sparked allegations of racism and made national news, In May of 2015, a drawing of Gary with a noose around his neck began circulating on social media. Shelley Bechtol drew the picture on her kitchen wall, admitting she was angry because the school district hired Gary to replace her husband as the North Fort Myers baseball coach.

She says, however, she didn’t draw the noose saying, “That was drawn on by somebody else."

Cell phone video shows her husband took a sledgehammer to the wall during renovations and that video went viral.

Bechtol says, "I was portrayed as a racist, I'm not. I'm far from it, I've raised 3 to 4 black kids in my home. I have custody of one right now."

The recent issues with Gary resulted in the district suspending him from coaching the last few games of the season. We contacted district officials to hear what they had to say about this but they refuse to comment on personnel issues.