Police in Orlando, Fla., want to talk to New England Patriots safety Brandon Meriweather about a shooting that injured two men outside a bar near his hometown, authorities said Thursday.
|Safety Brandon Meriweather recently completed his fourth season with the New England Patriots. (Stephan Savoia/Associated Press)|
The 27-year-old player was at the scene of a shooting in the early morning hours of Feb. 28 in Apopka, Fla., Orange County Sheriff's department spokesman Capt. Angelo Nieves said at a news conference.
Nieves said 24-year-old Quentin Taylor and 23-year-old Nico Stanley were both injured. Taylor was shot in the face, and Stanley was grazed by a bullet.
The spokesman said there was some sort of altercation before the shooting and that an attorney who says he represents Meriweather would like to set up an interview. So far, it hasn't been scheduled.
The Orlando Sentinel reported that crime-scene technicians were in Apopka on Thursday afternoon to search the shooting location -- the front yard of a home -- for more evidence. No gun or guns have been found in connection to the incident.
No charges have been filed.
Nieves wouldn't go into details but said, "There was some activity, something that occurred, some discourse or disagreement or altercation that occurred at (the bar) that precipitated the incident."
Stanley and Taylor say Meriweather shot them, their lawyer told the Sentinel.
"I don't know if it happened or not," Florida-based attorney John Morgan said. "I am presuming him (Meriweather) innocent until proven guilty."
Morgan spoke more about the situation during a guest appearance on WEEI-AM's "Dennis & Callahan Show."
"We know an investigation is going on," Morgan said. "We know a fella has a bullet hole through his cheek and head, you can look at that and see it, and that's what we know. And we know our clients say that Brandon Meriweather was the shooter. ... I'm not in the business of coming out here and saying this is absolutely what happened. This is a 'he said, she said.' I'll be interested to see what Brandon Meriweather says."
Those close to Meriweather came to his defense.
Tim Bridges, the legal guardian who raised Meriweather, told the Boston Herald that allegations tying the safety to the shootings are false.
"It's not true," Bridges said. "No truth to the rumors."
Bridges is confident that Meriweather will be cleared of any wrongdoing, but he's concerned the player's reputation will be unjustly compromised.
"I'm only worried to a point where this type of publicity has the potential to damage his career," Bridges told the Herald. "That's the only thing that bothers me. But as far as any allegations of wrongdoing or any involvement in wrongdoing, I'm not worried about that. I know it's not true.â
A relative who witnessed the shooting told The Boston Globe that Meriweather wasn't responsible for the shooting and only attempted to break up the scuffle that included two cousins, Taylor and Cedric Payne.
"When Quentin came full force at Cedric, Brandon jumped in the middle to try to break up the fight," said the relative, who chose to remain anonymous for fear of retribution, according to The Globe. "Brandon had no influence on the fight and didn't have a gun on him."
Meriweather graduated from Apopka High School in 2002, then played at the University of Miami. He was selected in the first round of the 2007 draft by the Patriots and completed his fourth NFL season in 2010.
Taylor was interviewed by detectives Wednesday for the first time. Stanley spoke to investigators Monday, according to the sheriff's office. Nieves said the time lapse came because the men needed time to recover from their injuries.
Meriweather's lawyer, Adam Swickle, told the Herald that he's "confident" his client is innocent and his office is investigating the possibility of "alternate shooters."
"There's been a lot of (garbage) going around, talk on the street about a lot of different scenarios about how this played out," Swickle said. "Obviously, we're confident that everything is going to work out. But until the complete investigation is done, I pretty much have a policy I don't step on law enforcement's toes. He has not been arrested, has not been charged. Nothing like that."
"We are aware of the reported allegation, but do not have any additional information," the team said in the statement.
This isn't the first time that Meriweather's name has been mentioned in regard to a violent incident.
In October 2006, while still at Miami, Meriweather was part of an on-field fight with several Florida International players.
About three months earlier, Meriweather fired at an alleged assailant who had shot Miami backup safety Willie Cooper outside the house the two players shared with another teammate, police said. Meriweather wasn't charged, and police said he legally used the gun, for which he had a permit.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.