- John Barr, Reporter ESPN Enterprise Unit
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CONLEY, Ga. -- Less than a week after pledging to turn his life around and be a "positive member of the NFL," Adam "Pacman" Jones walked into a suburban Atlanta strip club where, according to witnesses, a confrontation over a woman led to reports of death threats and allegations that Jones had arranged a shooting outside the club.
It was June 18, 2007, shortly after midnight. A valet had backed Jones' Cadillac Escalade into a parking spot by the front door of Club Blaze, an out-of-the-way strip joint tucked behind a truck stop just outside Atlanta's beltway. Jones, who was under a yearlong suspension for numerous violations of the NFL's personal conduct policy, was patted down and walked inside.
By the time the evening ended, three men, including a retired suburban Atlanta police officer, were involved in a gunfight with men they believe were directed by Jones to shoot them. No one was injured.
The events that unfolded that night came almost four months after a highly publicized fight in February 2007 and a triple shooting that followed at the Minxx Gentlemen's Club & Lounge in Las Vegas. Jones initially was charged with felony coercion for his role in the Minxx melee. NFL commissioner Roger Goodell later suspended him for the 2007 season, warning, "This is your last opportunity to salvage your NFL career."
With his NFL career already pushed to the brink by numerous run-ins with the law, Jones agreed to tell authorities what he knew about the gunman allegedly responsible for the Las Vegas shooting. Jones never acknowledged any role in the shooting. His cooperation eventually led to a reduced charge, his reinstatement and helped salvage his playing career.
But information obtained during an "Outside the Lines" investigation raises new questions about the story Jones told Las Vegas police -- an account that so far has helped him avoid jail time for his involvement in that incident. That story hinges on an accusation by Jones that a man named Edward "Slugga" Morris III, currently in Atlanta's Fulton County Jail awaiting trial on three counts of murder, demanded money for the Las Vegas "hit" and threatened Jones, his mother and his child if he didn't pay.
"He's lying. I know it ain't true. " Morris told "Outside the Lines" by phone from jail. "Why would I tell that to a friend? I think he's trying to play football."
Details obtained from exclusive jailhouse interviews, court documents, reviews of security camera video and interviews with victims, witnesses and authorities reveal that the nights Jones spent at the Las Vegas strip club and the suburban Atlanta club played out in remarkably similar fashion. Both involved altercations inside a club followed by shootings outside a club. And both involved Jones' association with Morris.
"I really don't have nothing to say about that situation. That was two years ago, man," Jones told ESPN's Stephen A. Smith on Saturday. Asked if he ever arranged a shooting, Jones, who was released by the Dallas Cowboys on Wednesday, told Smith simply, "No."
The day of his release from the Cowboys, Jones threatened a lawsuit against ESPN.
SHOOTING VICTIMS SPEAK
It was Father's Day, time for a guys night out. Darian was just a regular customer at Club Blaze that night in 2007, along with his nephew and a childhood friend, Doug. The men asked to be identified only by their first names and spoke to "Outside the Lines," their first such interview, with the understanding that their names would not be used. To this day, they say, they remain afraid of reprisals.
Darian is a former police officer in suburban Atlanta who had retired a few weeks before heading to Club Blaze. A former superior officer familiar with Darian's service record said Darian was a good officer who left the department on his own accord to pursue another career.
Club security video shows the three men entered the club at 1 a.m., about half an hour after Jones. Darian and his group had a late-night meal, then settled in near the main stage. By then, it was after 2 on Monday morning. Darian says he noticed a woman in the audience by the main stage, dressed in street clothes, who didn't appear to be a dancer.
"I asked her was she dancing, you know, would she give me a dance or something just to be comical or whatever," Darian says. "And the guy standing next to her turned around and kinda looked at me and kinda said to me, 'Don't say anything to her.' I was like, 'Oh, is she with you?' And he went on to say, 'Just don't say anything to her.'"
A few minutes later, Darian said, his nephew returned from the bar and told Darian that the man he had exchanged words with was "Pacman" Jones. Moments later, Darian said, he sensed the presence of several men. His nephew and Doug clearly remember one was a slightly built, lighter-skinned black man with an unusual tattoo -- a fleur-de-lis, the same symbol adopted by the New Orleans Saints -- between his eyebrows.
"He was standing right next to Pacman, like standing in the sense that he was protecting Pacman or was with him," Darian's nephew said.
Darian said he never had a physical exchange with Jones or anyone in his group, a statement confirmed by a Club Blaze employee who witnessed the scene inside the club but did not hear the exchange.
Doug recalled standing between Darian and Jones as Darian turned to walk away.
"After Darian walked off," Doug said, "I turned around to Pacman Jones, and he obviously was offended how I turned around 'cause, you know, I turned around like, 'Who are you talking to?' You know, that's when [Jones] put his hands down in his pants and said, 'I'll kill you and everybody else in this club.'"
Doug said the threat startled him. He said Jones never showed a gun. Jones, like other patrons, was seen on security video being patted down before entering the club.
Darian said his first impulse was to leave quickly and get to his truck, where he had a registered handgun in his glove compartment. At 2:28 a.m., Darian, his nephew and Doug left. Darian said members of Jones' entourage, including the man with the tattoo on his forehead, followed them into the parking lot.
Darian said he decided he and his group would be safer standing outside his truck, with a view of the parking lot. He said they watched some of the men get into a dark-colored Pontiac Grand Prix, others into a green Dodge Charger. The Charger can be seen on video leaving the parking lot at 2:37 a.m. Jones left a minute later.
Devele Andrews, an off-duty Clayton County Sheriff's deputy working security that night, later told police he heard Jones say outside the club: "F--- this. I'm going to my car to get my gun." Andrews told police he confronted Jones and told him he and members of his group would have to leave. Jones' Escalade was seen on security video leaving at 2:41 a.m.
A former club security guard, who asked to remain anonymous, said he approached Darian and his group with his weapon drawn because he suspected the men were armed. The guard said he asked the men to lie on their stomachs in the parking lot while he searched them for weapons. Neither Darian nor anyone in his group displayed a weapon. The guard told them that Jones and his group had left and that they would be safe to leave.
Shortly before 3 a.m., Darian drove toward Atlanta, with Doug in the passenger seat and his nephew in the back seat. Less than a mile from the club, Darian said, he stopped at a red light near the on-ramp to Interstate 285.
"All of the sudden, I just started hearing shots ring out and debris started a-flying," Darian said. He motioned for Doug to get his gun from the glove compartment and returned fire, shooting blindly out the driver's-side window with his right hand as he simultaneously ducked for cover.
The men said the shots came from Darian's left, two lanes over, from two cars, one stopped in front of the other. Nobody was seriously hurt, although Darian's nephew was struck in the neck by flying debris. Eventually, a car in front of Darian pulled up and he was able to speed away on the interstate. Several minutes later, Darian returned to Club Blaze and reported the incident to DeKalb County police.
Nobody in Darian's truck saw the shooters, but they did see the cars. They said one was a green Charger, the other a dark Grand Prix -- the same kind of cars they'd seen minutes before being driven by the men in Jones' group.
Nobody in Darian's truck saw Jones' Escalade at the scene of the shooting, but all three men said they think Jones was involved.
"He's the only one we had a confrontation with that whole night," Doug said.
"If something that minute, that small, will set this guy off to the extent that he wants somebody dead, I say he's really got a problem," Darian said.
DeKalb County Police questioned Jones, but nobody was charged. The case remains open, but detectives are not actively investigating, according to a department spokesman.
Police said Darian and the others couldn't identify the shooters and said, at the time, that the men made it clear they weren't interested in pressing charges.
Doug recalled being shown a series of photos by investigators, a collection of pictures that included Jones and another man he'd seen inside the club that night -- the man with the unusual tattoo on his forehead. Of the three shooting victims, only Doug confirmed that he was reluctant to press charges, in large part, he said, because he knew the gunmen were still on the streets.
Jones' former agent and attorney, Manny Arora, said he conducted his own investigation of the exchange inside Club Blaze. Although he did not divulge Jones' version of what was said that night, Arora said Darian and the men accompanying him, not Jones, acted as instigators.
Arora said that after extensive interviews with the alleged victims and Club Blaze employees, Jones was cleared by police of any wrongdoing. A spokesman for the DeKalb County District Attorney said the case never rose to the level of something considered for prosecution.
WHAT HAPPENS IN VEGAS
It was Feb. 19, 2007, at Minxx Gentlemen's Club in Las Vegas, the night Jones decided to "make it rain." He showered strippers onstage with money, according to the former club owner.
According to court documents, Jones became enraged when a dancer and an out-of-town promoter started sweeping up the cash he'd thrown on the stage. According to court documents and witnesses interviewed by "Outside the Lines," Jones approached the dancer, grabbed her by the hair and hit her in the face with a closed fist. Jones denied attacking a dancer. The woman has never been identified, and no charges have been filed. Arora strongly denied his client ever attacked a dancer. Arora said the attack, which was reported at the time to have been captured by security cameras, was not on any of the security camera footage he reviewed. A former club owner, who has reviewed the security camera footage, told "Outside the Lines" that the video does clearly show Jones pushing the woman into a table, but does not show Jones striking the woman.
When a security guard grabbed Jones moments later, Jones reportedly said, "I'm gonna kill ya. Matter of fact, all you's are gonna get it."
Four former club employees told "Outside the Lines" they heard Jones make similar death threats. One former security guard said Jones stood in the rear parking lot, pointed at a security guard who had forced him from the club and said, "You're dead. You will not live to see the morning."
Another former Minxx employee said Jones reached behind his back as if he were going to draw a gun from his waistband. Jones never displayed a weapon, according to the former employee.
A former Minxx valet said he heard Jones say: "This is how we do it in the dirty south."
Minutes after that remark, witnesses said, another man, not Jones, stepped from behind a palm tree at the front of the strip club and opened fire. Three people were shot, including club manager Tom Urbanski, who remains paralyzed from the waist down.
Las Vegas police interviewed Jones at his hotel room at Caesars Palace hours after the shooting, but Jones didn't provide police with his first detailed account of the fight and shooting until September 2007.
According to court documents, Jones told police that after the fight inside Minxx, a man later identified as Arvin Edwards, 28 at the time -- someone Jones says he didn't even know -- approached him in the parking lot and told him he "should not worry and that he would take care of it."
Jones told police he dismissed Edwards' remarks and turned to walk away to get a taxi to his hotel. Moments later, Jones told police, he saw Edwards open fire on the front of the club.
Edwards was arrested and jailed in April and is awaiting trial in March in Las Vegas on three counts of attempted murder.
In exchange for his testimony in Edwards' upcoming trial, Jones was allowed to plead guilty to a lesser charge of misdemeanor disorderly conduct in Las Vegas and was sentenced to probation and community service.
In a June phone interview from jail, Edwards said he didn't know Jones before that night at Minxx. He denied being the shooter and denied being in Las Vegas at the time of the shooting. He said the story Jones told police doesn't make sense.
"Even if they don't believe my story, you've got to say his story is full of it," Edwards said. "Somebody you don't know walked up to you, seeing you get into an altercation and say, 'Hey, don't worry about it.' And then shoots three innocent people. C'mon! Nobody's gonna do that!"
According to court documents, Jones also told police that about a week after the shooting, Edwards and an Atlanta-area man named Edward Morris III, 27 at the time, attempted to extort him -- requesting $15,000 for the "hit" in Las Vegas.
According to court documents, Jones told police that Morris also threatened him if he didn't pay up and told a friend of Jones' that, "If Jones refused, Morris would 'go after' Jones, his mother and daughter."
According to court documents, wire transfers and phone records helped to identify Edwards as the shooting suspect. Edwards suddenly became the central figure in the Minxx case.
Lost in the reporting was any exploration of Jones' connection to Morris.
"PACMAN" AND "SLUGGA"
Edward "Slugga" Morris III, whose hometown is New Orleans, was living in Atlanta in February 2007.
Atlanta investigators say Morris is one of the founding members of a notorious Atlanta street gang known as the International Robbing Crew, a gang so violent it was targeted by a special task force made up of Atlanta police and agents with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.
In an October 2007 news conference after the arrests of Morris and other suspected IRC members, Jeffrey Pearce, the special agent in charge of Atlanta's ATF field office, said Morris and the others represented the "worst of the worst" criminals on the streets of Atlanta.
Fulton County District Attorney Paul L. Howard Jr. referred to the IRC in November 2007 as "the most violent gang anyone can ever remember in Atlanta."
Morris is in Atlanta's Fulton County Jail awaiting trial on three counts of murder. Prosecutors in Atlanta say his gang, the IRC, might be responsible for as many as eight murders.
According to court documents, two of the killings Morris is accused of committing occurred in the weeks before the night of the incident at Club Blaze. One slaying occurred just eight days earlier, according to court documents. Morris and four others were later indicted for the murder of Randy Griffin, which occurred June 10, 2007, outside an Atlanta night club. At the time, Griffin was a witness in a Fulton County Superior Court case. Prosecutors allege the Griffin killing was a "hit" ordered by an inmate in the Fulton County Jail.
Despite his alleged role in the Griffin killing, Morris, the man who allegedly threatened Jones and his family after the Las Vegas shooting, was a free man in June 2007.
According to the shooting victims who went to Club Blaze that night in June, and two club employees, Morris was at Club Blaze with Jones. A club employee confirmed that Morris was in the group of men who followed the shooting victims out of the club after the verbal exchange involving Jones.
In a June 2008 phone interview from the Fulton County Jail, Morris was asked about his relationship with Jones and said: "That's my partner. He's my friend. We hang out."
Asked why Jones would tell police that Morris extorted and threatened him after the Las Vegas shooting, Morris said: "He's lying. I know it ain't true. Why would I tell that to a friend? I think he's trying to play football."
Atlanta attorney Derek Wright, who's representing Morris on the three murder charges, said: "My client never extorted Mr. Jones. I'll say that crystal clear."
Wright also describes Morris as a "friend" of Jones'. Wright said that the two men often went to the same clubs, that Morris has been to Jones' house and Jones' mother's house, and that Jones and Morris spoke frequently on the phone.
Wright also said Jones and Morris were friends before and after the shooting outside Minxx, which leads Wright to question Jones' allegations of threats and extortion, which Jones made after the Las Vegas shooting.
"That defies logic and common sense," Wright said. "If someone extorts you, if someone threatens your family, if we follow the story, how do you befriend that person again? It does seem that Mr. Jones' statements in Las Vegas are inconsistent with the truth."
Arora, Jones' former attorney, said the threats were real and that Jones confirmed that to him. Arora also said he never questioned Jones about his relationship with Morris.
For his part, Jones acknowledged the fact that he knows Morris in his interview with Smith on Saturday. "Everybody is familiar with this guy. He's terrorized the whole of Atlanta," Jones told Smith. Jones denied being friends with Morris.
Jones' current attorney, Robert Langford, noted that Morris is awaiting trial on murder charges and would have motivation to mischaracterize his relationship with Jones. "Don't you think he would be wanting to say anything he possibly could to dodge that bullet?" Langford told Smith.
Wright says he has shared information about the relationship between Jones and Morris with the Clark County (Nev.) District Attorney, David Roger. When contacted this past summer, and again last week, Roger would not comment on any new information he has received.
Marciell Easterling sits in a sparsely furnished interrogation room, his lawyer to his right. Across the table sit an Atlanta homicide detective and a special agent with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.
Easterling has admitted to authorities his role in six Atlanta-area murders. Prosecutors say he is a member of the International Robbing Crew, the same gang of which Morris is a member.
According to court documents, Easterling has turned on his fellow gang members. He is charged with six murders, and has been given full immunity and could avoid prison entirely in exchange for his testimony against Morris and others in a major Atlanta murder trial. Easterling is the man prosecutors are relying on to help bring down a street gang they've called the "worst of the worst."
"Outside the Lines" obtained a videotaped copy and transcripts of Easterling's October 2007 statement to Atlanta investigators. In his statement, Easterling unexpectedly mentioned Jones and the dispute Jones had with Darian inside Club Blaze. Easterling said he wasn't at Club Blaze that night, but said Morris told him the next day what had happened.
Easterling said that after Jones and Darian exchanged words, Jones told Morris "he'll pay him" to shoot Darian, who's referred to by Easterling in an excerpt of his statement as "buddy."
"They got into an argument so Pacman, he basically tell Slugga like, 'Yo, I'll give y'all like' -- I think told me he'd give him like 10 -- no he didn't give him -- matter of fact, he didn't tell him the price. Like, he'll pay him to shoot at buddy -- to shoot buddy or whatever."
The day after the shooting, Morris' nickname, "Slugga," appeared in Atlanta-area news accounts of the incident. That same day, Easterling said, he went to Morris' house in south Atlanta. He said he was sitting on the front porch as Morris called Jones in an effort to get payment for the shooting.
According to Easterling, Morris was not happy that his nickname had appeared in the paper and he wanted to speak with Jones.
But Jones, Easterling recalled, had someone else answer his phone. Easterling said he then overheard Morris request payment for the shooting near Club Blaze.
"Pacman going to have to give me at least like 10 or 20, you know what I'm saying, for doing this, because my name all in the paper," Easterling said he heard Morris say over the phone to Jones' friend.
Wright, Morris' attorney, said, "That would be consistent with the idea that Mr. Jones asked for a hit on somebody and after the hit was done or attempted, he had to pay for it." Wright acknowledged that Morris was at Club Blaze with Jones the night of the shooting.
"He was there and was in communication with Mr. Jones," Wright said.
Wright won't say, however, whether Morris carried out a hit for Jones, or whether Morris tried to collect money for a hit a day later. But not once during an extensive interview did Wright deny Easterling's statement about what happened.
"I would suggest if you just look at that alone, would that not be enough to further investigate the involvement?" Wright asked. "Do you simply look for the persons alleged to have done a shooting, or do you look for the person who is alleged to have ordered the shooting?"
A spokesperson for the DeKalb County Police said detectives were not aware of Easterling's statement to Atlanta investigators until December, when they were asked about it by "Outside the Lines."
After repeated requests beginning Wednesday, the NFL declined to comment on the allegation that Jones arranged a shooting while serving his season-long suspension.
Jones' agent, Worrick Robinson, did not respond to repeated requests for a comment by "Outside the Lines."
On Wednesday, the Cowboys also declined to comment. Later that same day, the team announced it would release Jones.
For his part, Jones reacted to his release with a mix of anger and resignation.
He told Smith on Saturday that he has had problems with alcohol, but sought counseling through Alcoholics Anonymous. Reflecting back on a string of off-field incidents, which reached a low point after the shooting in Las Vegas, Jones insisted he is a changed man.
"Back then, I had a problem and I addressed my problem," Jones said. "That was two years ago, back in '07. What is it, '09 right now? So I faced my problems head on head, man."
John Barr is a reporter in ESPN's Enterprise Unit. Producer David M. Lubbers contributed to this report.
An "Outside the Lines" investigation raises new questions about Adam "Pacman" Jones' association with an accused murderer and Jones' involvement in shootings outside Las Vegas and suburban Atlanta strip clubs.