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Marshall declined interview requests for this story, but he was obviously shaken by the incident. Ten months later Denver police stopped him for allegedly driving drunk and going the wrong way on a one-way street. On the way to the drunk tank, according to an officer's report, Marshall said, "Why ain't you guys out looking for Williams's killer? I hate Denver. I hope I get traded. I hate this f------ city." Last year Marshall finally got his wish, escaping Denver to play for the Dolphins nearly 2,000 miles away.
Almost two years passed without an indictment in the Williams murder case. Not long before that, Javon Walker made the news again. He'd been found lying on the ground near the Las Vegas Strip, beaten and unconscious.
On June 15, 2008, Walker went out drinking in Vegas. He wore jeans, black sneakers, a stylish black T-shirt, a black ball cap and enough precious stones and metals to buy a small house. He had a platinum earring with a two-carat diamond in each ear, a Jacob & Co watch with a wall of diamonds on the face and a platinum chain that was also studded with diamonds. His pockets were full of cash.
Flanked by an old buddy from his hometown in Louisiana and two women he described as friends, Walker left the Bellagio and headed for a nightclub called Body English at the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino. Walker paid for everyone. He'd made many sacrifices to become a professional athlete and took pleasure in sharing the rewards. When he wanted a haircut, he flew in his old barber from out of state. When the Boys & Girls Clubs of Metro Denver needed funds to complete the Darrent Williams Memorial Teen Center, Walker cut a check for $30,000. He was known around Las Vegas as an exceptional tipper.
Walker strolled into Body English just after midnight ahead of a long line of ordinary people and met a large man named Joel Abbott, who would serve as his bodyguard at the club. Management had reserved him a table by the dance floor, next to Floyd Mayweather Jr.'s table. Walker ordered a bottle of Patrón tequila, at least two magnums of Grey Goose vodka and at least two bottles of rose-colored Dom Pérignon champagne. He did not like champagne.
In Las Vegas and everywhere else, the rich play by other rules. Not just anyone can skirt the line outside a club, get a VIP table by the dance floor or stand on said table raining foamy beverages upon other patrons with the tacit approval of management. Walker spent nearly $18,000 on drinks that night, and this bought him many rights. The club activated its special champagne-spraying protocol.
"A lot of times," Abbott, the bodyguard, testified in a later court proceeding, "the management can get their arm turned to say, 'O.K., let's let this guy order five bottles of this very expensive champagne, and if he wants to spray them or shake them up, that's fine, as long as we have advance notice.' Now, if a regular person might just grab and start spraying without any notification, there might be an issue. But never with him... . And as we kinda back up the crowd, saying, 'Hey, there's gonna be some champagne sprayed,' some, usually females, that's just how it is, will say, 'Oh, I'm fine with that' and wanna actually get closer."
After sharing his wealth with the women of Body English, Walker stopped at the blackjack tables and then went to the penthouse for some drunken bowling. He paid the deejay something like $500 to play a particular song. He fell down when he tried to throw the ball. His friend and the bodyguard tried to escort him outside, but it took forever because Walker kept stopping to talk to strangers. He wanted to thank the waitresses and the busboys, to give autographs and pose for pictures. People tell stories all the time about meeting their sports heroes and being terribly disappointed. If you had met Javon Walker that night, you probably would have loved him.
But Walker left his friends that night, and that's where it all went wrong. He took offense at something his buddy said on the way back to the hotel, and he jumped into the street before the Cadillac Escalade came to a stop. A few minutes later, after he'd returned to the Bellagio, he was standing outside the hotel when a stranger called his name: "Javon!" Walker saw two men in a black Range Rover. They promised to give him a ride to meet up with his friends again at an after-hours club. He got in. Walker is a big man, sharp with muscle, but his blood-alcohol level—estimated at 0.39—could have killed him all by itself. The hustlers took his money and jewelry. One of them hit him so hard in the right cheekbone that his eye socket fractured.
Walker was recently asked when he began wearing diamonds, and his answer was simple: when he could afford them. His mother, Bernita Goldsmith, was a sharecropper's daughter who grew up picking cotton in the humid fields of Louisiana, and after Javon was born, she worked two jobs to keep him fed. At night she served champagne to the oil barons at The Petroleum Club in Lafayette, and then she picked up Javon from his grandmother's and they went home to their one-room efficiency apartment and fell asleep in the same bed.