Bullets Over Indianapolis

December, 10, 2007
12/10/07
1:19
PM ET

Oh man, this Jamaal Tinsley story is not good.

Mike Wells and Francesca Jarosz of the Indianapolis Star have an especially thorough version of events:

Sgt. Paul Thompson, a spokesman for the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department, said the incident began at the nightclub Cloud 9, 5150 W. 38th St.

Members of Tinsley's group said people in another group harassed them about Tinsley's expensive cars -- a Mercedes, Rolls-Royce and Dodge Charger -- and the amount of money he made.

Tinsley's group left the club and headed for Tinsley's Downtown condominium but soon realized they were being followed by a gray Chrysler and a dark pickup truck, Thompson said. They pulled into the Conrad Hotel because they thought it would be safer, he said.

The shooting began about 3:40 a.m., after both groups reached the hotel, Thompson said.

After [Pacers equipment manager Joe] Qatato was shot, he went inside, where Conrad employees called emergency medical services and police.

Qatato had been sitting with Tinsley in the player's Rolls-Royce. A Methodist Hospital spokesperson said Qatato was released Sunday afternoon after being treated. Tinsley, in the front passenger seat, was not injured.

Two of the three vehicles in Tinsley's group followed the shooters to Monument Circle, and James Tinsley returned fire. It was not known whether anyone was hit. James Tinsley had a gun permit, Thompson said.

Jamaal Tinsley was not involved in the chase, Thompson said.

No Conrad employees witnessed the shooting, but a few were on duty inside the lobby when it occurred. Those who assisted Qatato were not allowed to comment due to hotel policy.

At least three bullets struck Tinsley's Rolls-Royce, including one in the windshield and two in the driver's door window. The Charger had five bullet holes, Thompson said.

Pacers.com has a lot of coverage of this story, too, although they left out the part about two of Tinsley's cars making the outing to Monument Circle to fire off some shots into the night.

The reaction from the team is all along the lines of: this is what happens when you're out late at night. And perhaps going home earlier just solves a lot of these kinds of problems.

But clocks everywhere protest that the time was not entirely to blame, and those clocks may have a point. Another important part of staying out of trouble is trying to stay out of trouble.

As the Associated Press points out, Tinsley has been making this kind of news lately:

He was present when [Stephen] Jackson fired a gun into the air several times before he was hit by a car at Club Rio in Indianapolis in October 2006.

Tinsley and another Pacers player, Marquis Daniels, both face charges stemming from a bar fight almost a year ago.

A grand jury indicted Tinsley on a felony charge of intimidation and misdemeanor counts of battery, disorderly conduct and intimidation in connection with a Feb. 6 fight at the 8 Seconds Saloon. Their trial is scheduled to start Jan. 14.

First of all, the Pacers may be spinning this as if Jamaal Tinsley was a victim in this instance. Fair enough. But all those in his cars who allegedly went hunting the bad guys vigilante style, and his brother who police say fired off into the Indianapolis night? That's not my idea of victimhood.

There are a lot of big questions. (Why out so late, why partying with guns, why not hire real professional security, why not party at home with people you know and trust, and if a Rolls Royce will get you shot -- why not drive a Honda?) But the one that I have not seen answered is: when were the police called? If you are harassed and then followed by two cars, surely seeking out the parking lot of a luxury hotel is not as good a move as calling 911 and asking to be directed to the nearest law enforcement officials.

I know, I know, I know, there are a thousand reasons why young black men don't trust the police and the reasons for that are long-term, ugly, and mutlifaceted. There are novels and term papers galore on that subject.

But if I were a high-profile athlete, I'd put machismo aside and try to develop some kind of relationship with the local police, for instance by hiring some off-duty officers as security. Not only are they trained professionals, but they are also good friends to have who know how to get a good response when it's time to call the local police.

In an era when more and more athletes seem to be targets of various different kinds of attacks, you want your local police department taking a personal interest in keeping you safe.

Instead, according to a big USA Today story on how athletes are coping with this new reality, a lot of athletes are seeing these headlines and talking about getting bigger, meaner dogs and guns.

I'm thinking that making every decisions with safety in mind, and working with real deal security professionals and the local police, could keep a family a lot safer than a big mean dog.

In the meantime I'm just thankful that nobody was killed, hoping that Joe Qatato makes a full and speedy recovery, and wishing we knew better how to prevent these kinds of incidents.

UPDATE: Mike Wells of the Indianapolis Star says Tinsley has been a revelation this season:

I'm sure most of you are going to think I'm out of my mind when I say this, but Tinsley has been a completely different person this season. Not only is Tinsley putting up good offensive numbers, he's also got a different demeanor around the locker room, on the practice court and in games. I've talked to and learned more about Tinsley in the past two months than I have in the previous two-plus years I've covered him.

UPDATE: An Indianapolis TV station has released transcripts and audio of "the 911 call" associated with this incident, which came from a worker in the lobby of the Conrad Hotel who evidently had an injured Qatato in his lobby by the time he talked to any emergency services people. That would seem to suggest (but certainly not prove) that nobody called 911 from one of Tinsley's three cars before, during, or immediately after the shooting.

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