I said, “get up!”
Most crime stories involving ex-athletes pushing 50 have the same plot: an end-of-the-line washout case, six weeks behind on his final car payment, and literally fleeing on foot from an army of outraged creditors and/or junk dealers punches out his wife/best friend/total stranger in an Ann Arbor pool hall in a dispute over an autographed merchandise sale gone bad. He resists arrest and his toupee flies off as he is shot repeatedly with stun guns and beaten about his surgically repaired knees with truncheons. Once he’s in custody, a miserable $19 worth of cocaine is found hidden in an M&M wrapper stuffed in his leopard-print bikini briefs.
Elements of this story can be detected in the arrests of individuals as diverse as ex–Red Sock and naked cocaine castaway Otis Nixon, food-stealing ex-Cornhusker and Midwestern-diner menace Chad Kelsay, “Don’t You Know Who I Am?” Olympian Bill Johnson, and NFL’s alleged-arson legend Jeff Komlo. Their stories may not be exactly the same, but in one area they are all identical: when they reached the end of the road, none of them was carrying a badge. When sporting glory fades into iniquity, it almost always flames out in gruesome excess, and never into a career in crooked law enforcement.
That’s what makes last week’s story involving former Iowa football star Ivory Webb so unusual. Webb, an early-’80s wide receiver for the Hawkeyes and a 1982 Rose Bowl teammate of New England’s own Andre Tippett, was the central figure in a scandal that threatens to become this year’s Rodney King case. Now 45, Webb serves as a sheriff’s deputy in California’s San Bernardino County; he was working in that capacity on February 3 when he went on a high-speed chase in the town of Chino. The chase resulted in a crash; the driver of the car, a 21-year-old Air Force security officer and Iraq-war veteran named Elio Carrion, first emerged and then collapsed on the ground. Webb approached the vehicle and a videotape shot by a bystander shows him commanding Carrion to “get up.” As he does so, Webb is seen firing three bullets at him; Carrion survived the shooting and is in stable condition in a hospital.
Ominously, police subsequently arrested the person who shot the videotape, Jose Luis Valdes, and told him that he would be extradited to Miami on an outstanding warrant involving a shooting. When reached by reporters, Valdes claimed he was only wanted for a DUI in Miami and that police were just anxious to get him away from the press.
The matter has not been resolved, and there is mounting pressure for the FBI to pursue civil-rights charges against Webb. The ex-footballer, incidentally, was initially named but then cleared in an excessive-force lawsuit in 2001 filed by inmates at a local correctional facility.