Multiple football players continue to face possible disciplinary action from the University of Florida following an on-campus confrontation involving airsoft rifles.
After contents of a University Police Department report, first obtained by First Coast News in Jacksonville, were revealed Wednesday night, Florida coach Dan Mullen issued a statement Thursday on the 10 players named in the report.
“We were made aware of the incident when it occurred and immediately began following campus protocol,” the statement read. “This has been an opportunity for us to educate our players about the dangers and negative perceptions that can occur when conflict arises, and how important honesty and good decision making is.”
According to the UPD report, seven UF players were involved in an altercation at Keys Residential Complex on the evening of May 28. Police were called to the scene after a witness reported seeing a suspicious person in the area. Upon arriving, the police report states officers saw more than 10 people arguing and holding “weapons that resemble assault rifles.”
The police report largely hinges on an account from an alleged gambler in the Gainesville area named Devante Zachery, 21, who told UPD he had a friendship with UF redshirt senior tight end C’yontai Lewis that Zachery described as a “good relationship” when “the football team was winning” but would turn sour when Florida lost. Zachery, also known as “Tay Bang”, would call Lewis and the team “garbage”, according to the report, and would complain about losing money after betting on UF football games.
The 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, Kadarius Toney and Tyrie Cleveland, defensive tackle Kyree Campbell and tight end Kemore Gamble — at the Keys Residential Complex.
Upon seeing Zachery, the football players left the scene and 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 UPD that a member of Zachery’s group held a baseball bat and threatened he would “spray” the players if they came any closer.
The police report indicates that freshman linebacker David Reese, in addition to defensive back Trey Dean, who is roommates with Jones, were interviewed by investigators after it was determined both, while uninvolved, were at Jones’ dorm room during the night of the incident.
After returning to his residence hall from a trip to Atlanta, Dean said he noticed “several black males standing outside the building by their vehicles” and they asked Dean if he was a football player, to which he responded “no”. Dean said he could hear the males talking about Jones, leading him to ask Jones if the males outside were Jones’ family members. Dean told investigators he later “observed one of the individuals (with Zachery) with a gun so they all got low to the floor”.
While searching for evidence to corroborate the report, UPD officers didn’t find any bullets at the scene but did find the frying pan that “was seen on camera being used” by one of the football players, later identified as Lewis. Zachery later told UPD investigators that Lewis and Luke Ancrum where “the main culprits in the dispute”, a feud Zachery told investigators started as playful but soon escalated in February. Police determined Ancrum had no role in the altercation.
Investigators did not believe all elements of Zachery’s story, the police report states.
As a result of the investigation nearly eight weeks ago, while no criminal charges were filed and no weapons were discharged, it appears all but Lewis, Ancrum, Reese and Dean faced or will face disciplinary action from the university.
UPD recommended six players attend UF’s Student Conduct and Conflict Resolution department. Toney and Campbell were recommended for an “incident by holding and pointing what appears to be assault rifles (later determined to be airsoft rifles) at other individuals on campus,” according to the police report. The case was closed June 26.
Upon inspection of the rifles, police noted “the one rifle made to look like an AR15, which Toney was carrying, had the orange tip mostly painted black making it look even more like a real rifle” and that Toney told officers he often felt the need to carry protection because people have attempted to pick fights with the football players when they go out in public.
Vernell Brown, the UF Director of Student-Athlete Development, told police the airsoft guns would not be seen on campus again, according to the report.
The four others — Cleveland, Gamble, Jones and Wells — were recommended to the Student Conduct and Conflict Resolution department for lying to police about the incident, the report states. Zachery was given a “no trespass” warning for the next three years.
It has been a rough week in the headlines for the UF football program. Freshman defensive back Justin Watkins is facing four charges, including two felonies, following his second arrest in the past 11 weeks. Mullen suspended Watkins on Tuesday.
As freshmen prior to the 2016 season, Cleveland and Wells were arrested after being accused of firing BB guns on campus and causing more than a $1,000 in property damage. Cleveland and Wells were subsequently suspended for the season opener — a game each player would have likely missed anyway due to injury. Wells was one of nine Florida players suspended for the 2017 season after they were charged with fraudulent use of a credit card and identity theft.