Player's Attack Led to Shooting, Authorities Say

TIMES STAFF WRITERS

The Cal State Fullerton football player shot and wounded by an off-duty Pasadena police officer outside a popular nightclub allegedly attacked the officer before he was shot, authorities said Friday.

"We've determined that (Clarence) Siler was participating in the assault on the officer," Fullerton Police Sgt. Danny Becerra said.

Siler, however, said in an interview from his hospital bed that he is an innocent victim of circumstance.

The 23-year-old Titan defensive end said he was not involved in the Thursday morning fight and was only trying to get a teammate away from the crowd when the officer drew his weapon.

"The next thing I knew, everybody started running past me. I looked back and saw this guy with a gun in his hand. . . . I didn't know he was an officer, I just thought he was some guy going crazy."

Siler said he "started to join the pack and run when, bam!, I got shot in the back." He fell to the ground and braced himself with his left hand, he said, "when, boom! I got hit in the arm. I keep trying to run and then, boom! boom!, two more shots were fired. This guy was trying to kill me. I don't why. I think he was just picking out the biggest guy in the crowd."

Siler stands 6 feet, 4 inches and weighs 240 pounds.

After the 2 a.m. incident outside the Carnivale Club at 1401 S. Lemon St., police arrested Titan players Andrew Fears, 21, and star running back and National Football League prospect Mike Pringle, 22, on suspicion of assaulting the officer. Both players have been released on their own recognizance.

Becerra said he expects similar charges to be filed against Siler and other players when the investigation by the police and the Orange County district attorney's office is completed.

Police said Pasadena Police Officer Darin McBride was tackled and kicked in the head by five or six people, most of them football players, after he tried to break up a fight between two women in the bar's parking lot.

While he was on the ground, McBride apparently grabbed his concealed .380-caliber pistol and fired three or four rounds, Becerra said.

Police are investigating whether the off-duty officer was in a life-threatening situation at the time of the shooting. He sustained minor head injuries during the scuffle.

School officials have declined comment on the incident.

Gene Murphy, head football coach at Cal State Fullerton, said he is waiting for the police to complete their investigation before he disciplines any players for alleged violations of team rules.

After an incident two years ago when an El Toro Marine was beaten to death in a barroom brawl with two Titan players, Murphy declared in the team playbook that "local bars are off-limits" to team members.

"The punishment is up to me. It could vary," he said. According to the playbook, players can be thrown off the team for violating the "no-bars" rule.

In a fight at the school pub last month, two players were suspended from spring practice, which is now under way. Fears was one of those players.

Several students around campus said they were annoyed by the behavior of some members of the Titan football team.

"I'm tired of reading about football players (in fights). If they're part of a team, they should have a certain amount of responsibility to the school," said Emily Messamer, a senior dance major.

Kevin Chase, a sophomore business major, had a similar reaction.

"It seems like there have been quite a few incidents involving athletes around here," he said. "It reflects poorly on the school. A lot of people perceive Cal State Fullerton as a school that is losing credibility, losing its potential. You never hear anything like this going on at UCI or UCLA, but you always hear things about CSF athletes."

Not all people on campus were critical of the football players.

Jack Bedell, professor of sociology and Academic Senate chairman, said he didn't think the athletes' personal lives should be so closely scrutinized.

"Any time anyone is hurt it's a tragedy, but this happened on their own time, it wasn't on university property. Frankly, it's none of our business," Bedell said. "If it reflects poorly on the school, that's not fair because these people are private citizens. If these were art students, would anyone pay any attention to this?"

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