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Monday, December 10, 2007
Tinsley, companions unhurt, but Pacers equipment manager hit by gunfire

Associated Press

INDIANAPOLIS -- The Indiana Pacers are concerned enough about Jamaal Tinsley's most recent late night incident that they say it's time for a change.

Tinsley will meet with team president Larry Bird and coach Jim O'Brien on Monday after the guard and several companions were targeted in a shooting over the weekend that wounded one person outside a downtown hotel.

It was Tinsley's third late-night episode in about 14 months, and the latest in a three-year string of incidents that have engulfed the franchise.

"This is something we can't just put right behind us and walk away from," Bird told Pacers.com. "It's something we'll have to discuss. I don't know how long it'll take and we'll continue to talk about it. We have to make a change, there's no question about it."

Police said the Sunday morning shooting involved an assault rifle and followed a confrontation when Tinsley and his companions were leaving the "Cloud 9" club.

O'Brien said Tinsley made an error in judgment by being out so late. Police were called at 3:40 a.m.

It was not a good decision and that's basically it. I'm sure he knows that, and I'm sure there will be a lifestyle change for him. But, to the best of our knowledge, he was a victim.

-- Pacers coach Jim O'Brien

"It was not a good decision and that's basically it," O'Brien said. "I'm sure he knows that, and I'm sure there will be a lifestyle change for him. But, to the best of our knowledge, he was a victim."

The latest incident adds to the Pacers' reputation for finding trouble -- or trouble finding them.

The well documented brawl with Detroit Pistons fans was the start. The Pacers dealt with suspensions of Ron Artest and Stephen Jackson after the 2004 brawl, and Indiana eventually traded both players.

Tinsley has found trouble most often. He was present when 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.

The latest incident is likely to overshadow perhaps Tinsley's best season. He wasn't injured and didn't practice Sunday.

"It's very unfortunate, especially considering the type of year he's having," forward Jermaine O'Neal said. "He's our early-season MVP. I know this city has been down this road with us before. Let the judicial process play itself out and continue to support us."

Tinsley's group had arrived at the club in three cars owned by the player -- a Mercedes, a Rolls Royce and a Dodge Charger. Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department Sgt. Paul Thompson said a group of people gathered around the Rolls Royce and gave Tinsley a hard time about his cars and his earnings.

After Tinsley and his entourage left, they realized they were being followed by a gray Chrysler and a dark pickup truck, Thompson said.

Instead of going home, Tinsley's group pulled into the Conrad Hotel, a downtown luxury hotel, where the shooting began. Tinsley's Rolls Royce was struck by several bullets, and five bullet holes were found in the Charger, police said.

Thompson said Tinsley's vehicles were struck by shots from a .223 assault rifle.

"That's a heck of a weapon to unleash downtown without there being collateral damage," Thompson said.

No one was injured in the Charger.

Two vehicles in Tinsley's group then followed the shooters in a chase and Tinsley's brother, James, fired at the attackers with a 9 millimeter handgun, police said.

Thompson said it was unknown whether anyone was hit at that time, and Jamaal Tinsley was not involved in the chase.

James Tinsley, who has a gun permit, hasn't been charged because the incident is still under investigation, Thompson said.

Police arrested one person in Tinsley's group, Antoine Toon, for an outstanding warrant in Georgia for dealing a controlled substance.

Joey Qatato, identified as the team's equipment manager on the Pacers' Web site, was struck in both elbows as he sat with Tinsley in the Rolls Royce. The 48-year-old Qatato was taken to Methodist Hospital, where he was treated and released.

Sunday's shooting is the latest in a string of violent crimes targeting professional athletes.

Washington Redskins star Sean Taylor died Nov. 27, a day after he was shot in the bedroom of his Miami home in what police have said was a botched burglary.

Over the summer, NBA players Eddy Curry and Antoine Walker were robbed just weeks apart in their Chicago-area homes. In September, two men broke into the home of Houston Texans cornerback Dunta Robinson, tying up the victim and stealing jewelry.

Tinsley appeared to be the only Pacers player in the group, which included his brother and several friends. Police didn't say how many were in the group and didn't identify any of the members other than Tinsley, his brother, Toon and Qatato.

NBA spokesman Tim Frank said: "We are gathering details but before we know more, it's inappropriate for us to comment."