Charles White Is Arrested--Drugs : Rams’ Running Back Found Wandering in a Field in Brea

Times Staff Writer

Ram running back Charles White was arrested Friday afternoon in Brea and booked on misdemeanor charges of being under the influence of a controlled substance, police said.

Though lab tests have not yet been completed, a source said the substance is suspected to be cocaine.

White, a former Heisman Trophy winner, has a history of drug problems dating back to his days at USC and later with the Cleveland Browns. It seemed, though, that he had controlled the problem since signing with the Rams as a free agent in 1985.

White, according to police reports, was found wandering in a field near the corner of Brea Boulevard and Lambert Avenue in Brea. He was carrying a trash can lid and screaming incoherently and was, police said, “extremely irritated.”

White was taken to St. Jude Hospital for observation and later to the Brea Police Dept., where he was booked and released under his own recognizance at 4:20 p.m.


White is scheduled to appear in North Orange County Municipal Court Sept. 23.

“When he came back from the hospital, he was extremely apologetic for his behavior,” watch commander Bill Lentini said. “He was very remorseful. He was extremely cooperative.”

The Rams had been practicing twice daily at the team’s training complex at Cal State Fullerton, but the team was given Friday morning off, and players didn’t have to report back until 1 p.m.

Lentini said the department received several calls regarding a man in a field carrying a large metal object. According to a police press release, White was taken to St. Jude Hospital for treatment of a drug overdose.

Ram Coach John Robinson said he would not immediately comment on White’s arrest, but the team issued the following statement:

“Ram running back Charles White has been charged with a misdemeanor of being under the influence of a foreign substance,” the statement read. “The Rams are initiating proceedings to determine what chemical substance was used and will ascertain what actions are appropriate.”

Neither White nor his wife, Judy, could be reached for comment Friday night.

Ram players didn’t learn of White’s arrest until Friday night.

Running back Mike Guman said he was told that White had been in an accident.

Said quarterback Steve Dils: “I just feel so bad for the guy. I couldn’t be more shocked.”

Dils and Guman added that they don’t believe the Rams have a drug problem as a team. “I’m naive,” Guman said. “To me, no one does it. But who knows? Maybe 10 guys are doing it.”

Dils said he noticed more of a problem with his former team, the Minnesota Vikings. “In Minnesota, it kind of got out of hand. But I don’t see it here.”

The Rams had their annual random drug tests two weeks ago, Guman said. Apparently, White’s test at that time was negative.

Both Dils and Guman said what White needs now is support. “He doesn’t need people pointing fingers at him,” Guman said. “He needs help. We’re all behind him.

“Maybe not enough is being done. People are dying, and it’s not going away.”

Ram quarterback Jim Everett said: “I was shocked. I hope this thing can be remedied to the point where he’s healthy as a human being first. Things were going so well for him.”

That they were. White, primarily Eric Dickerson’s backup since joining the Rams as a free agent in 1985, scored two touchdowns in the Rams’ exhibition win over the Denver Broncos in London.

Because of Dickerson’s sore hamstrings, White was scheduled to start at tailback in Sunday night’s game against the Chargers at San Diego.

Now, of course, there are more pressing concerns.

White seemed an indestructible force when he left USC in 1980, but the headlines he made with the Cleveland Browns weren’t about his considerable running talent.

White, a first-round draft choice, had been a disappointment with the Browns and missed several practices during his first two seasons, prompting Cleveland officials to confront White about a possible drug problem.

It was then learned that White’s problems with cocaine dated as far back as USC, but the situation had worsened considerably during his second season with the Browns.

White agreed to accept help and entered a month-long program at CareUnit of Orange in July 1982.

It was then that then-Coach Sam Rutigliano formed a drug awareness program for his players called the Inner Circle. White was one of the dozen or so Cleveland players that participated in the program.

According to Dr. Gregory B. Collins, head of the Cleveland Clinc’s drug and alcohol recovery center, White had made excellent progress after leaving CareUnit in 1982.

But White was seemingly well aware of the lingering effects of his addiction.

However, in an April 1986 interview with The Times on the CareUnit facility, White said he no longer attended all after-care counseling meetings, the most important step in recovery according to Dr. Joseph Pursch, who heads CareUnit.

“You can attend meetings for as long as you are alive,” White said at the time. “You can go once or twice a week. With my situation, I have God in my life. It’s up to the person. If he wants to get thrown back in (the drug circle), it’s there. The important thing is to stick to the program, gather yourself new friends and stay away from the old places and old friends.”

Police watch commander Lentini seemed affected by seeing White in his station. “I’m hoping he’ll still be a success story because I’ve followed him since his days at USC,” Lentini said.