By Daniel Smithson | Staff writer
[Updated: 5:35 p.m., 7-31-18] An incident report released today by the Gainesville Police Department shows an ongoing conflict between University of Florida football players and a local group of men that may have led to a late May confrontation involving Airsoft guns.
The incident report, filed by Cpl. M.J. Brown, said tensions between between Devante Zachery, a 21-year-old gambler known as “Tay Bang,” and several Florida football players could have started after a February bar fight.
In the report, Zachery alleges a string of incidents between him and his friends and the football players.
Florida said it was aware of the situation.
“We understand GPD has followed up last week’s UPD report with a background report that has Devante Zachery as its primary source,” UF spokesman Steve McClain said. “We are not aware if there will be any additional information provided by GPD on this matter. Anytime we get information involving our student athletes we look into it.”
The following incidents are detailed in Brown’s incident report and rely heavily on Zachery’s account and police encounters:
Feb. 10: Zachery told police he and his friends got into a playful argument inside Rain nightclub with UF football players Chauncey Gardner-Johnson, Tyrie Cleveland and C’yontai Lewis.
Zachery told police the argument was about guns.
Feb. 17: Brown wrote in her report that, while on duty during “Florida Invitational Step Show” weekend downtown, she noticed a large group exiting the club. She noted there was a lot of pushing and shoving. A bar security manager confirmed there had been a fight between UF football players and local men from Gainesville.
Zachery told police the football players jumped his friend Keion Jenkins inside the nightclub, which escalated tensions between the two groups.
Feb. 25: Brown was on duty at the T.B. McPherson recreation park. She said in her report that she observed eight to 10 men wearing Gators colors at the park. Brown states in the report that the group was loud, agitated and “walking very aggressive(ly).”
Some of their conversation included words like, “Where they at?” the report says.
Brown wrote in her report that she remembered the bar fight earlier in February and told the football players to leave the situation alone.
She stated that it wasn’t a smart idea for them to “load up the football players” and go to a neighborhood with the intention to fight. It’s unclear from the report whether the football players told police it had been their intention to come there and fight.
The report says the football players agreed, asked to take pictures with police and left the area.
After reviewing photos, Brown said the players included Cleveland, Malik Davis, and Kadarius Toney.
May 28: Zachery told Brown the next incident between the football players and the group came on Memorial Day.
A UF Police report states that, on the night of May 28, Zachery and his friends waited for Lewis and several UF football players — including freshman quarterback Emory Jones, wide receivers Rick Wells, Toney and Cleveland, defensive tackle Kyree Campbell and tight end Kemore Gamble — at the Keys Residential Complex.
Upon seeing Zachery, the football players left the scene but returned soon after, holding what Zachery described as “some sort of assault rifle,” noting others were holding rocks and, in one case, a frying pan.
A UF player later told police that a member of Zachery’s group held a baseball bat and threatened he would “spray” the players if they came any closer.
The “assault rifle” turned out to be an Airsoft gun, police say, but Zachery insisted in Brown’s report that it was an AR-15, carried by Toney.
Zachery told police that, prior to the conflict, he would give some UF players discounts on rental cars at Enterprise, his former place of employment.
If the players did receive rental car discounts unavailable to others, it could be a potential NCAA violation under the category of impermissible benefits.
According to the NCAA, “an extra benefit is defined as a special arrangement by an institutional employee or booster to provide a student-athlete or a student-athlete’s relatives or friends a benefit not authorized by the NCAA.”
The bylaw also states that under most circumstances, “enrolled student-athletes cannot receive goods or services based on their status as athletes. And they cannot receive goods, services and special discounts not available to others.”
The NCAA will not comment on specific cases.
An NCAA spokesman told The Sun that if a school learns about a potential violation, its compliance staff will investigate to determine if a violation has occurred, then turn the findings over to the NCAA.
Because Zachery is not a UF employee or booster, it appears that for it to be determined a violation, there would have to be proof that the discounts were given to the players only because they were football players, and that similar discounts were not available to others.
July 4: Zachery alleged in Brown’s report that in the area near Rain nightclub Cleveland was knocked out that day by one of Zachery’s friends. Zachery would not tell police the friend’s name.
He told police that Cleveland was “knocked out badly,” but didn’t know if Cleveland required medical attention.
In a recent interview with police, Zachery said he just wanted the “beef” to be over with, saying he’s been receiving threatening phone calls.
The report says that current and former football players have been calling him. For example, Zachery alleges former UF player and current New England Patriot cornerback Duke Dawson contacted him, asking if he could buy marijuana.
He also said a friend of UF defensive player Luke Ancrum has been calling to threaten him, according to the report.
It is unclear as of Tuesday afternoon if the football players connected to these incidents will be disciplined by the university or the football team. None were charged with a crime.
UPD recommended six players attend UF’s Student Conduct and Conflict Resolution department.
State Attorney Bill Cervone said Tuesday that he has talked with UPD and GPD several times since May to discuss the incidents. He said he doesn’t anticipate any charges being filed or pushing to have charges filed.
A separate GPD report
A separate incident report from July 22 states that Toney and defensive back Brian Edwards were stopped by police for a seat belt violation. Initially, Toney drove away after he was told to stop, police say.
The report said police found a black rifle lying across the back seat of the vehicle. GPD department spokesperson Ben Tobias confirmed it was an AR-15.
Toney told police he bought the rifle and had it with him “for protection because of the locals.”
Police say in the report that Toney and Edwards were placed in handcuffs for the officers’ safety. Both UF football players were released at the scene after officers found they had no criminal history. Tobias declined to comment on the report.
State Attorney Bill Cervone said Tuesday he doesn’t anticipate any charges being filed or pushing to have charges filed on Toney based on GPD’s provided information.
Gainesville Sun sports writer Graham Hall and Robbie Andreu contributed to this report.