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Patriots

Relative says Brandon Meriweather was trying to break up fight

Posted by Steve Silva, Boston.com Staff  March 10, 2011 05:43 PM

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One of Brandon Meriweather's relatives who witnessed the incident at which the Patriots safety is accused of shooting two men said Meriweather was trying to break up a fight between two of his cousins when a gunman opened fire.

The gunshots narrowly missed Meriweather, one bullet striking his cousin, Quentin Taylor, near his mouth and another grazing the head of Taylor's friend, Nico Stanley.

bluejeanslounge.jpgThe witness, who requested anonymity for fear of retribution, said the incident began at the Blue Jeans Lounge in Meriweather's hometown of Apopka, Fla. As a melee erupted around closing time, Stanley's sister became involved in a physical confrontation with another of Meriweather's cousins, Cedric Payne, their relative said.

After the melee, a number of patrons, including Meriweather, rode to Payne's residence in Orlando to continue the party. In the meantime, Nico Stanley went elsewhere to pick up Taylor, then rode to Payne's house to confront him over the incident with Stanley's sister, according to the witness.

"When Quentin came full force at Cedric, Brandon jumped in the middle to try to break up the fight," their relative said. "Brandon had no influence on the fight and didn't have a gun on him."

As Meriweather jostled between his two cousins, one of Taylor's friends, whom the witness identified at Anton Massey, drew a handgun and fired at Payne, mistakenly striking Taylor and Stanley. The witness said Meriweather played no other role in the incident but peacemaker.

"It was very scary," Meriweather's relative said. "Once the gunshots went off, everybody took off running. I was the only person still there because Quentin fell directly at my feet."

The witness recalled screaming, "Help him, help him, pick him up."

"That's when another guy came over and threw Quentin in the car and rushed him to the hospital," the witness said.

By then, Meriweather was gone, having headed for home, his relative said. The alleged gunman was not a friend of Meriweather, according to the witness.

A Florida lawyer was the source of a story this morning that accused Meriweather of being involved in a shooting in Florida, but despite initial reports to the contrary, the lawyer said he did not know if Meriweather was the shooter.

The Orange County sheriff's department this afternoon confirmed that Meriweather was present during the shooting.

"William Brandon Meriweather, among others, has been identified as being present during a shooting... being investigated by this office," Capt. Angelo Nieves said in part of a written statement.

The sheriff's department has stated it is not ready to "characterize" Meriweather's status in the case, but would like to interview him. According to the sheriff's department, a lawyer claiming to represent Meriweather called the department on Wednesday to facilitate an interview.

According to the Sentinel, Meriweather has retained south Florida lawyer Adam Swickle, who told the Orlando newspaper this afternoon that he is aware of the circumstances involving his client.

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

Swickle said would have no other comment because a criminal investigation is ongoing.

John Morgan, who claims he represents the two victims, was asked by sports radio WEEI this morning if he had any doubt that Meriweather was the shooter of his clients.

“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. Their allegation to me is … one of the fellas was in a fight with someone else out there and their allegation is that Meriweather shot him. That bullet grazed that fellas head and hit the second client, went through the cheek and head… the cops have had this case for two weeks.”

The Globe's Greg A. Bedard reported via Twitter that a source close to Meriweather said it "wasn't him."

The Patriots released a statement on the matter: “We are aware of the reported allegation, but do not have any additional information." NFL spokesman Greg Aiello said the league is aware of the report and "looking into it to determine the facts."

According to the Sentinel report, Orange County Sheriff's Office records list Nico Stanley, 23, and Quentin Taylor, 24, as victims in the Feb. 28 shooting on W. 17th Street and S. Central Avenue in Apopka. WESH TV in Orlando reported on Feb. 28 that two men showed up at an Apopka Hospital for treatment of gunshot wounds but that they did not want to press charges and would not cooperate with a police investigation.

The story began to spread when reports on the shooting surfaced Wednesday on the Twitter page of Florida radio personality Dan Sileo, who, like Meriweather, is a former University of Miami football player.

A report on the website Deadspin this morning attributed the details of the case, including naming Meriweather as the shooter, to Morgan.

“I became involved when two clients came to our firm, referred to me, who had been shot at a party two Sundays ago outside a home in Apopka,” Morgan said on WEEI this morning. “There’s an ongoing investigation. The only thing that I can tell you today that’s indisputable is that our clients were shot.”

Morgan was asked if his clients knew Meriweather.

“Yes, they went to high school together,” Morgan said. “One played football there, and one knew him there. I spent a lot of time speaking to them about that, they said, ‘Yeah, that’s who pulled the gun. That’s who shot us.' ”

Morgan was asked about the progress of his firm’s internal investigation in terms of confirming Meriweather’s whereabouts on the night of the shooting.

“We have a lot of things that we believe happened, about where he [Meriweather] was then, and when he left, and when maybe he even came back,” Morgan said. “So, I don’t want to comment on that, but we’re working on that.”

Morgan was asked if he would back out if he found out his clients were lying to him.

"Hell yes. If my clients are lying? Hell yes," he responded. "That's why if I was representing Meriweather, I would get out in front of this and if I'm innocent I'd get out in front of this [Thursday] morning."

In 2006, the summer before his senior year at Miami, Meriweather was involved in a gun controversy when he and teammate Willie Cooper went to check out a suspicious car parked outside their residence when a man next to the house shot at them, hitting Cooper. Meriweather returned the gun fire and the shooter ran away. No one was seriously injured in the exchange.

Meriweather, who had a permit for the gun, was not charged as it was determined he was acting in self defense.

As a senior at Miami, Meriweather was part of a group of Hurricane players who were seen stomping on several Florida International players that were on the ground during an on-field fight. Meriweather was suspended by Miami and the ACC for his participation in the melee.

Meriweather was the Patriots' first-round draft choice in 2007. He is currently the team leader with 12 career interceptions and is a two-time Pro Bowl selection.

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