As the Seahawks embark on their new season, they are the most troubled team in the NFL. The overarching question is: How much misery, tragedy and bad judgment can one team absorb?
When police responded to Brian Blades's 911 call summoning them to his condo, they found 34-year-old Charles Blades dead from a bullet that had entered just beneath his chin. Brian has said that Charles was shot accidentally, but questions about that assertion arose almost immediately. An initial investigation revealed that Brian's .380 Walther semiautomatic pistol had fired not once but twice—the second bullet was found on the floor. And neighbors living below the scene of the shooting reported hearing "thumps" and "sounds of a struggle" that night.
As Flores says, "You don't want to let your imagination run off on any of this. Because it will...."
As of Monday, Brian still had not given police or prosecutors a detailed explanation of what happened in his apartment. Plantation police did not take him in for questioning the night of the shooting because, they said later, Brian was too "hysterical" to talk. Brian canceled two subsequent interviews, claiming that he remained too distraught to speak with authorities. But he did hold a press conference.
Six days after the incident Brian stood on the lawn in front of his mother's house in Plantation and read a brief statement that was long on emotion but was short on answers. "I know Charles's death was an accident, the police know Charles's death was an accident, and most important, God knows it was an accident," Brian said before he was led off sobbing. Among the crowd watching were three Plantation detectives, one of whom videotaped the proceedings.
This week the police will present their findings to the Broward County state attorney's office, which is expected to forward the case to a grand jury. The grand jury's decision on any indictment is expected to take two to four more weeks. Even if police conclude that the shooting was an accident, Brian could be prosecuted for gross negligence. "It was an accident," says Bruce Zimet, Brian's lawyer. "But if they are determined to charge Brian with anything, it would probably be manslaughter."
For now the sketchy reconstruction of what happened that night goes like this: Brian and his brother Bennie, a safety for the Detroit Lions, Charles and two unidentified men spent the evening cruising town in a limousine and watching Fourth of July fireworks at a nearby park.
Meanwhile, Bennie's former girlfriend Carol Jamerson arrived at his town house to settle a dispute over who would have custody of their three-year-old daughter the next day. Bennie's current girlfriend, Toni Fort, was baby-sitting the child and, for reasons that remain unclear, summoned police at about 11:40 p.m. A patrolman arrived shortly after Fort's call, and Bennie, reached on a cellular phone in the limo, agreed to return home quickly. Jamerson promised to wait off the property until Bennie arrived, and the officer left.
At 12:38 a.m. Brian placed his rambling 911 call. Police believe that Bennie was not in Brian's condo at the time of the shooting, which raises a significant question: Since Brian had said that he was leaving his town house to join Bennie and the two women at Bennie's apartment across the street, what was he intending to do with the gun? The other men who shared the limo with the Blades brothers were in Brian's condo when Charles was shot, but both told police they were in another room and had no idea how the shooting took place.
Brian says he is intent on reporting to training camp by the July 21 deadline for veterans. And the Seahawks, who named Blades their Man of the Year in 1994 for his work with the homeless, the United Negro College Fund and other projects, are vowing to stand behind him.