Cops: Brandon Meriweather at shooting

Updated: March 10, 2011, 10:22 PM ET
ESPNBoston.com

ORLANDO, Fla. -- Police in Orlando 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.

The 27-year-old player was at the 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.

No charges have been filed.

"We are not prepared at this time to characterize or disclose Mr. Meriweather's status in this case," the department said in a statement.

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."

According to multiple media reports, the shooting occurred at a residence in Apopka. Citing Sheriff's Department records, the Orlando Sentinel reported that the location of the shooting was West 17th Street and South Central Avenue. Meriweather graduated from Apopka High School in 2002 and played college football at the University of Miami. He was drafted in first round of the 2007 draft by the Patriots and completed his fourth NFL season in 2010.

Taylor was interviewed by detectives on Wednesday for the first time. Stanley spoke to investigators on Monday, according to the sheriff's office. Nieves said that the time lapse was because the men needed time to recover from their injuries.

According to records, Stanley and Taylor were taken to Florida Hospital Apopka, with Taylor listed in critical condition and requiring surgery. Stanley was treated and released. He signed a "declination of intent" to prosecute, according to records. Neither victim identified Meriweather as the shooter to police who arrived at the hospital.

According to the Sentinel, Meriweather has retained Florida attorney Adam Swickle.

"I am aware of the investigation," Swickle said, according to the newspaper. "We are doing our own investigation."

He said he would not comment further because the criminal investigation was ongoing.

John Morgan, the lawyer for Taylor and Stanley, told multiple media outlets that the two men claim that Meriweather was the shooter. They claim to have gone to high school with Meriweather. Morgan said he had just met the men and was not jumping to conclusions.

"I don't know if it happened or not," he said, according to the Sentinel. "I am presuming [Meriweather] innocent until proven guilty."

And he told WEEI Radio in Boston that he wasn't convinced Meriweather was the shooter.

"I have a lot of doubt about that," Morgan said. "That's what these fellas told me. But I don't assume that to be true at all. I assume nothing to be true until we get an investigation completed."

In an e-mail to the Sentinel, NFL spokesman Greg Aiello said: "We are looking into it to determine the facts."

The Patriots also issued a statement.

"We are aware of the reported allegation, but do not have any additional information," it read.

A Boston Globe report says that not only did one of the victims know Meriweather, he is related to him. Another anonymous relative of Meriweather who says he was at the scene of the shooting told the newspaper that Meriweather was actually trying to break up a fight when Taylor was shot by a different man. The witness claimed that Taylor is Meriweather's cousin.

He also said that Meriweather never had a gun and the alleged gunman was not a friend of the football player.

One person is sure that Meriweather was not responsible for the shooting.

"It's not true," Meriweather's legal guardian, Tim Bridges, told the Boston Herald.

"I'm sure the attorneys will handle whatever needs to be handled," Bridges said, according to the newspaper. "Everything will come out if there's anything to come out. But statements have been given by the Orange County Sheriff's Department that Brandon Meriweather is not a victim, nor a person of interest in any shooting."

Earlier Thursday, the Sheriff's Department had issued a statement saying that Meriweather was not a victim, suspect or witness in any shooting they were investigating. They later said that he was present at the shooting in question.

This isn't the first time Meriweather's name has been mentioned in regard to a violent incident.

In October 2006 while still at Miami, he was part of an on-field fight with several Florida International players.

About three months earlier, he shot at an assailant who had shot Miami backup safety Willie Cooper outside the house Cooper shared with Meriweather and another teammate, police said. Meriweather wasn't charged and police said he used the gun legally.

Meriweather had 68 tackles and three interceptions for the Patriots last season.

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.

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