Bryce Thompson had mutual restraining order when Tennessee football signed him
When police arrested Tennessee cornerback Bryce Thompson on Saturday on a charge of misdemeanor domestic assault, it wasn’t the first time Thompson was accused of threatening a woman.
A different woman who had a relationship with Thompson filed for a restraining order against him in January 2018 in Richland County, South Carolina. The woman and Thompson agreed to a one-year mutual restraining order in April 2018.
Thompson joined Tennessee coach Jeremy Pruitt’s first signing class a month later and became a Freshman All-America cornerback last season.
It is unclear whether Tennessee knew about the mutual restraining order when it signed Thompson as a four-star prospect. UT has not offered comment to the News Sentinel.
Thompson does not have a criminal record in South Carolina, according to a search of criminal records.
The News Sentinel obtained a copy of the restraining order case file on Tuesday via a public records request.
Thompson, 19, was suspended indefinitely from the team Monday following Saturday’s arrest. Witnesses told University of Tennessee police Saturday he threatened to “slap the (expletive) out of” a woman with whom he’s in a relationship. Witnesses also said Thompson threatened to “shoot up the school.”
The restraining order against Bryce Thompson
The woman who filed for a restraining order against Thompson wrote in her complaint that Thompson texted her stating that if she dated another man, he “would kill both me and that other guy.” She wrote that she believed Thompson’s threat because “he has a history of violence against me and others. He has physically slapped me, choked me, and thrown me around. I fear for my safety, and am constantly looking over my shoulder.”
The News Sentinel is not identifying the woman because she wrote in the restraining order filing she's a victim of relationship violence.
Pruitt declined to say whether he knew about the mutual restraining order or the woman's allegations of physical violence when Tennessee signed Thompson.
"We suspended Bryce indefinitely from our team," Pruitt said during Wednesday's SEC teleconference. "We cannot comment anymore because there’s an ongoing investigation.”
The woman wrote that after several attempts to break up with Thompson and telling him not to contact her, he threatened to kill himself on multiple occasions. She wrote that Thompson made her believe she was at fault. Thompson used disguised phone numbers to contact her, she wrote.
She also wrote that another woman, whom she referred to as Thompson’s former girlfriend, texted her on Thompson’s behalf. She wrote that she had never met this woman and that the woman continued to text her despite asking her to stop.
In October 2017, Thompson contacted the woman who filed the restraining order and told her he was coming to her apartment to harm himself, according to a Columbia Police Department incident report. Columbia police and other agencies responded to the call. Thompson did not show up at the woman’s complex, and his mother later notified police that he returned home safely, according to the incident report.
What happened Saturday?
Thompson is scheduled for arraignment at Knox County General Sessions Court on Sept. 3 following his arrest. He was jailed overnight and released Sunday morning on $3,000 bond.
Thompson denied making any threats or physical contact with the woman he argued with Saturday. He admitted he damaged a gate at the residence hall, according to police.
The woman told police the argument started after she found fake eyelashes belonging to someone else in his room. She told police Thompson “has a bad temper and has punched walls during past arguments.”
"Bryce Thompson is suspended indefinitely while the process continues," Pruitt said in a statement Monday. "We hold our student-athletes to a high standard. The safety of all students is our first priority here at Tennessee."
Pruitt declined to elaborate on the situation when asked by the News Sentinel during his news conference Monday.
“We’re not going to condone it. We’re not going to tolerate it,” Pruitt said then.
Pruitt made that comment days after Ryan Thaxton was arrested on domestic assault and false imprisonment charges. Pruitt dismissed Thaxton from the program eight days after his arrest. Thaxton later pleaded guilty to false imprisonment.
Bryce Thompson’s recruitment
Thompson played for two high schools in South Carolina, Dutch Fork and Ben Lippen.
He committed to South Carolina in December 2017 after decommitting from Virginia Tech the previous summer. He never signed with South Carolina and remained unsigned for months after national signing day, despite being one of the state’s top-ranked prospects. He became a late addition to UT’s signing class.
Thompson played as a backup in last season’s opener before joining the starting lineup in Week 2. He appeared in every game last season and made 10 starts. Thompson tallied 34 tackles and a team-high three interceptions.
The News Sentinel's Mike Wilson contributed to this story.
Blake Toppmeyer covers University of Tennessee football. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @btoppmeyer. If you enjoy Blake’s coverage, consider a digital subscription that will allow you access to all of it.