Mississippi State football players Michael Brown and Quinton Wesley pleaded guilty to Possession of a Firearm on Educational Property, a felony that carries maximum sentences of three years in prison and a $5,000 fine.
The incident they pleaded guilty to happened on the campus of Mississippi State University March 27th, 2008 between the student dorms Ruby Hall and Hurst Hall.
Mississippi State police detective Lieutenant John Barlett recounted exactly what happened that led up to the shooting incident. This is what I wrote down, but are not his exact quotes.
On March 27th current football players Anthony Johnson and De'Mon Glanton were at a BP convenience store just off campus when Anthony Divine along with at least one other person stared down both football players while at the store. A few minutes later one of the two guys who had been staring down the football players pulled out a gun then put at least one shell in it, although he never pointed the gun at either of the football players. The players then left. This occurred around 6:15 pm.
It appears there was an on-going issue between Divine and several members of the football team that had caused bad blood between them, but a gun had never been involved, just stare downs, until now. Barlett pointed out that no one had ever reported to the MSU police department anything about this bad blood.
Later that night at approximately 9:25 pm, two vehicles, including Divine's, drove to the dorms Ruby Hall and Hurst Hall on the campus of Mississippi State.
According to Barlett, both Quinton Wesley and Michael Brown ran to their vehicles and took their guns out and shot them in the air in an attempt to scare Divine and his friends. Wesley shot first, then Brown shot his. Only one shot was fired by each player. The people in the cars immediately left the scene.
Lieutenant Barlett confirmed that neither car had any physical evidence to show that they had been fired on.
The players explained why they fired their guns.
"Between 30 and 40 players called me to tell me about the guys outside and what happened with them earlier," said Brown, who was in his dorm at the time. "Players were panicking and there was a lot of confusion. I went to my vehicle and got my gun and fired it in the air because I didn't want it to escalate anymore than it already had. I had no intentions to hurt anyone."
Although Brown admitted he was scared and nervous during the time all this was happening, he told Judge Howard that he shot the gun more to prevent anything from happening to his teammates than to protect himself.
Once the incident was over, both players, with help from a few other football players (it has been confirmed the three were Jamon Hughes, Anthony Johnson and Rodney Prince), took their guns and hid them off campus.
The Mississippi State University police department investigated the scene. According to Lieutenant Barlett, both Brown and Wesley were cooperative once he told them what evidence had been found.
In cross examination, Brown explained to Assistant District Attorney Frank Clark how the gun wound up in his vehicle.
"I always leave the gun at home when I came back to school, but I was at the shooting range back home and I forgot that I had it in my vehicle," said Brown of his registered firearm.
Brown had several people testify on his behalf. First up was MSU offensive line coach J.B. Grimes who has coached Brown for two years.
"I'm here because I love the kid," said Grimes of Brown. "I feel strongly about this young man and hold him dear to my heart. He's been in my house and eaten with my family and he will always be invited to come back to my home. He's a good son to his mother and will be a good husband and father some day.
"He came to me after the incident and told me it was his fault. He was very emotional about it and has beat himself up pretty good about it."
Also testifying on Brown's behalf was a member of City of Atlanta Board of Commissioners, Robert L. Pitts, who was a professor at Kent State and Clarke College prior to becoming a politician in Atlanta.
"Even though he's not a relative of mine, I consider Michael to be like a nephew to me," said Pitts. "He and my nephew have been friends all their lives."
Pitts, in an emotional statement, pleaded with the judge to show leniency on Brown.
"The first thing Michael told me after this happened was that he messed up and it was his fault," said Pitts, who broke down several times during his testimony. "I'm requesting you to be lenient. Please give him a chance because I can tell you right now that no other judge will ever see Mike Brown again."
Gussie Pollard, Brown's mother, also testified on her son's behalf.
"When I was having health problems he left the University of Florida to be with me," said Pollard, who also broke down throughout her testimony. "I finally had to tell him to go back to school so that he could get his education."
Brown, who has never been charged with a misdemeanor or felony until this one, realizes he made a serious mistake in judgement.
"I let a lot of people down, Mississippi State, my coaches, my teammates, my family, myself," said a very emotional Michael Brown who only needs 8 hours to graduate from MSU. "I made a stupid, stupid mistake. I should have never had that gun on campus."
Brown talked about what Mississippi State has meant to him since he has been a student there.
"I love Mississippi State," he said. " (MSU head football) Coach (Sylvester) Croom, Coach Grimes and (graduate assistant coach) Jody (Wright) have been great to me. I want to graduate from Mississippi State if I'm given that chance."
Wesley, who only has one blemish on his record (a simple assault charge which occurred in 2006), also made an emotional statement admitting he made a serious error in judgement and has learned from it in many ways and is now mentoring to kids ranging from age 5 to 18 back in Atlanta about making decisions that could effect the rest of their lives.
"I made a very serious error in judgement," said the very emotional youngster. "If I could take back what happened that night I would. Mississippi State is the best place that I have ever been."
Judge Howard, at the conclusion of the case, decided to hold off giving a sentence to the two young men until next week.
"These two young men made a spur of the moment decision," said Howard. "I'm not going to make a quick, hasty decision. I'll read everything about this case and give my sentences next Tuesday afternoon at 1:30."
He did offer a word about how serious he views this crime.
"This country now lives in a post-Virginia Tech world. Guns on campus is very serious," he said.
Gene Swindoll is the publisher of the GenesPage.com website, the source for Mississippi State sports on the Scout.com sports network. You can contact him by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.