Charger Walters, Ex-Charger Wilson Arrested for Drugs

Times Staff Writers

Continuing drug investigations have led to the arrest of Charger starting cornerback Danny Walters and former defensive end Earl Wilson on cocaine charges, police announced Tuesday.

According to San Diego Police Lt. Louis Scanlon, other Charger players might also be implicated in the separate investigations.

"I'm not saying other players aren't involved," Scanlon said. "We are conducting a narcotics investigation. It's continuing. But at this time, there is not enough evidence for further arrests."

Walters, 25, who underwent drug rehabilitation in 1984, was arrested Monday at 3 a.m.--14 hours after the Chargers lost to the Kansas City Chiefs--for driving under the influence, police said. According to Scanlon, police searched Walters and found 1.7 grams of rock cocaine. But Scanlon said Walters was not charged with possession of the cocaine until Tuesday afternoon, so police could "pursue other leads" on their investigation of Walters, which has been going for about two months.

Wilson, 29, was waived by the Chargers Monday, but team officials say it was because of his poor performance, not drug activity. Scanlon said that on Sept. 4, Wilson furnished rock cocaine to an undercover police woman. Police provided only sketchy details of the alleged transaction, but Scanlon noted that no money exchanged hands.

On the basis of surveillance of Wilson and other leads, the Narcotics Street Team obtained a warrant Friday from San Diego Municipal Judge Raymond Edwards to search Wilson's hotel room in San Diego as well as a residence in Encanto.

Wilson was arrested Tuesday afternoon at Lindbergh Field, where police said he was planning to board a flight to Kentucky, his home state, in an apparent attempt to avoid arrest. He remained in custody late Tuesday at the County Jail downtown on a felony charge of furnishing drugs, with bail set at $5,000.

Also, three men--who Scanlon said were suspected of providing Wilson with cocaine--were arrested Tuesday at the Encanto residence. Mercier Gurgnard, 20; Michael Miller, 25; and Mark Cook, 21, were arrested at 5454 Roswell Street, where officers recovered one ounce of rock cocaine, a .380 semi-automatic rifle and another rifle. All three were in custody late Tuesday on charges of possession of a controlled substance for sale.

Walters, who was released from jail Monday morning upon his own recognizance, attended team meetings Tuesday and later met with Steve Ortmayer, Charger director of football operations. Ortmayer said Walters gave a "plausible" explanation for his actions.

"We won't convict Danny Walters," Ortmayer said Tuesday evening. "Danny has told us his story, and we believe what he says."

Said Alex Spanos, Charger owner: "We don't want to judge anybody until we know what's going on."

Spanos had said in the past that players who have had past involvement with drugs would not be given second chances. Walters, in an interview this summer, said he had been tempted in recent months to do cocaine and got "goose bumps" whenever he found himself in the presence of controlled substances.

"For some reason, it (cocaine) follows me wherever I go," Walters said on July 29. "It's just the way it is. I can be having a good time, and--all of a sudden--no matter where I am, I see this chemical substance. And I have to leave because I get these goose bumps and a funny feeling in my stomach.

"And I know if I did (cocaine), that would be it. I would be taking my salary and just throwing it out the window. Because that would happen if I ever did it again. I would be unemployed."

Spanos reiterated Tuesday that if Walters tests positive for drugs, he will be released.

"We help them, and we rehabilitate them, but if they test positive again, that's it," Spanos said.

Walters, who was unavailable for comment Tuesday, underwent drug tests anywhere between once and three times a week last season, even while he missed 14 games with a ruptured Achilles' tendon. Spanos has said Walters passed every test.

Wilson had been a holdout during training camp, and the Chargers went weeks not knowing how to reach him.

Fran Curci, Wilson's former coach at the University of Kentucky, had acted as Wilson's agent until this year. He said he had trouble staying in touch with Wilson and thought it was best if Wilson find someone else to represent him this year.

Wilson eventually chose Marvin Demoff as his agent.

In the meantime, Wilson--who has started 16 of 33 games since coming to the Chargers--didn't attend Charger off-season workouts and was overweight, weighing about 300 pounds. In the past, he played at 275 pounds.

Curci said Tuesday: "He just didn't lift weights or work out in the off-season. He looked fat on TV to me. Something must have been wrong."

Wilson's best friend on the team is fellow defensive end Lee Williams, who said Tuesday: "I didn't notice any significant change in him. . . . He's a close friend of mine, and I'm concerned about his well-being."

Coach Al Saunders said Tuesday he had no idea that Wilson was involved with drugs. He said other defensive ends such as Dee Hardison and Terry Unrein were outplaying him.

Likewise, Charger players said they did not notice a change in Walters' behavior.

"Danny's my roommate on the road," cornerback Gill Byrd said. "I'm not a professional, but I knew in 1984 when Danny had (cocaine) problems, he lost weight and was late to meetings. But nothing like that was happening now."

With the threat of the ongoing drug investigation, several Chargers were asked if cocaine was a team-wide problem.

Spanos said: "I have no idea. I really don't know any other details."

Ortmayer said: "Absolutely not."

Guard Dennis McKnight said: "To tell you the truth, I felt better about this team than a lot of the others in the past. Our young guys, guys like Karl Wilson and Rod Bernstine, are yes-sir, no-sir kind of guys."

Byrd said: "I don't think drugs are more of a problem here than they are in junior high or anywhere else. But pro athletes are under the microscope."

Safety Vencie Glenn said: "I don't think there's a problem. What happened today was strictly individuals."

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