Freeman, alleged witness to shooting, cut after arrest

Updated: June 26, 2007, 12:19 AM ET
Associated Press

MISSOULA, Mont. -- A University of Montana football player, arrested after allegedly throwing a beer bottle at a man outside a bar here, has been dismissed from the team for "not adhering to disciplinary guidelines."

The arrest of Qwenton Freeman comes amid turmoil in the UM football program. California authorities say that Freeman witnessed a fellow UM player shoot and kill a man earlier this month, but Freeman has refused to answer their questions.

He was arrested in downtown Missoula early Sunday for disorderly conduct and was dismissed from the team for not complying with disciplinary guidelines handed to him earlier in the week, according to a statement from UM officials.

Police allege Freeman threw a beer bottle at a man standing outside Stockman's Bar on West Front Street.

Freeman, 22, was booked at the Missoula County jail shortly before 3 a.m. Sunday, but paid his $100 bail within the hour and was released, according to the jail roster.

He pleaded not guilty to disorderly conduct Monday in Missoula Municipal Court.

The UM cornerback "was under strict orders to fully cooperate with law enforcement officers in the investigation" of the murder, according to the university statement. He also was ordered to strictly follow the UM Department of Athletics code of conduct, or face strict penalties, the statement said.

"These are serious matters, and it is very disturbing," UM Athletics Director Jim O'Day said. "At this point, we are following a zero-tolerance policy, and Qwenton made a bad error in judgment. To that end, he will no longer be a member of the Montana Grizzly football team."

The Grizzly football program has been under scrutiny following allegations that cornerback James Leon "Jimmy" Wilson, 20, killed a man in Southern California.

Wilson turned himself in to Los Angeles authorities on June 12 and was charged, in Los Angeles County Superior Court, with murder in the June 2 shooting death of Kevin Smoot, 29, at the Smoot home in Lancaster, Calif. Wilson remains in custody with bail set at $2 million.

He also has been dismissed from the UM football team, sports information director Dave Guffey said Monday.

Freeman was questioned last week by Los Angeles County detectives who say he witnessed the shooting. The detectives spent two days in Missoula questioning UM football players, but said none would cooperate with the investigation, including Freeman.

"It left a bad taste in our mouth that the players wouldn't cooperate with us," said Sgt. Steve Rubino of the Los Angeles County sheriff's homicide bureau.

O'Day said Freeman was with his attorney when he was questioned, and may have been advised by counsel against speaking to the investigators.

Originally from Pasadena, Calif., Freeman played in eight games for Montana last year, with 13 tackles, a sack and one interception. He and other football players are in Missoula for summer conditioning.

Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press