Kevin Ellison arrested for arson

Updated: June 15, 2012, 9:45 PM ET
ESPN.com news services

Kevin Ellison, once one of the top defensive backs in the nation for the USC Trojans before being sidelined by a knee injury as a senior, has been arrested on federal arson charges after he reportedly told investigators he set his bed ablaze with a marijuana-filled cigar because "God" told him to.

According to local media, Ellison confessed to starting a fire that engulfed an apartment early Thursday morning in Liberty Lake, Wash., near Spokane, after initially telling authorities he had been smoking in bed.

[+] EnlargeKevin Ellison
AP Photo/Tom HauckKevin Ellison, a top defensive back in 2008 with USC, reportedly told investigators he set his bed ablaze with a marijuana-filled cigar because "God" told him to.

Ellison, who played briefly for the San Diego Chargers after college, has been playing linebacker for the Spokane Shock of the Arena Football League.

Ellison reportedly jumped from the third-story unit but sustained only smoke inhalation.

Ellison, upon a follow-up interview in the hospital, confessed, citing the request by God, and said separately to another investigator "that he just wanted to get out of it and for it all to go away," according to The Spokesman-Review, which cited federal court documents.

Spokane Valley Fire Marshal Kevin Miller told the newspaper federal arson charges were standard for arson cases involving large apartment complexes. Ellison was arrested later Thursday.

Ellison's roommate and Shock teammate Chris Tucker said he was able to escape the fire after smoke detectors woke him. According to reports, Tucker checked on Ellison, who said, "I'm good," but did not come out.

"He pounded on the door and it was too hot," Miller told the Spokane, Wash., newspaper.

Tucker then notified neighbors and left the building before eventually finding Ellison outside.

Ellison had been behaving strangely recently, according to Shock owner Brady Nelson.

Nelson said Ellison had sent text messages to people Thursday night in which he claimed he was Jesus and was part of the Second Coming, KXLY-TV of Spokane reported.

Ellison, the only resident requiring hospitalization from the fire, was a sixth-round draft pick in 2009 by the Chargers, playing in 13 games and starting nine during his rookie season, during which he logged his only playing time in the NFL.

The Seattle Seahawks claimed Ellison off waivers the next season when they were looking for veteran depth in the secondary.

Ellison had played for Seahawks coach Pete Carroll at USC. He initially appeared to have a shot at earning a roster spot, but made little impact and was released within months.

While with San Diego, authorities arrested Ellison for suspected possession of a controlled substance. They reportedly found more than 100 Vicodin pills in his vehicle.

In 2005, Ellison earned playing time as a freshman at USC before tearing ligaments and suffering a fracture in his left knee while making a key interception late in a game against Arizona State.

Ellison recovered to become the Trojans' most consistent defender in the successive three seasons before he tore cartilage in his knee midway through his senior year, during which he had played into contention for the Jim Thorpe Award as the country's top defensive back.

Ellison has been suspended by the AFL pending results of the investigation, Nelson said to the Spokane TV station.

"If he truly did this, he's never coming back," Nelson said.

Information from ESPN.com's Mike Sando was used in this report.

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