Bucs' Da'Quan Bowers arrested at New York airport on felony gun charge
Bucs defensive end Da’Quan Bowers, the team’s 2011 second-round draft pick and one of its most promising young players, was arrested at New York’s LaGuardia Airport Monday morning for alleged felony possession of a Smith & Wesson .40 caliber firearm – a charge that could potentially put him behind bars.
Port authority police arrested Bowers at the check-in counter in Terminal C, an authority spokesman said. Bowers was scheduled to fly from New York to Raleigh, N.C. on a US Airways flight but now is being charged with criminal possession of a weapon in the second degree. Bowers was scheduled to be arraigned Monday evening and was expected to post bail.
The charge Bowers faces is the same one originally levied against former Giants receiver Plaxico Burress after a 2008 firearms incident in a New York nightclub. Burress served 20 months in prison after pleading to a lesser charge following an accidental discharge that resulted in his gunshot wound.
But Bowers’ incident was different in several important respects. Bowers, taking a pleasure trip to New York with his girlfriend, traveled from North Carolina with the handgun – apparently unwittingly so – in a checked bag. After discovering the handgun while in town, Bowers approached the ticket counter Monday and disclosed that he had the weapon, hoping to transport it home in the same fashion.
Police were alerted and Bowers, in accordance with New York law, was arrested because he is not licensed in the state. It’s believed the weapon is legally registered to him, though it was not immediately clear in what state.
A Queens County District Attorney spokeswoman confirmed that Bowers voluntarily turned the weapon over to authorities. However, the spokeswoman, Meris Campbell said the same charge would have been assessed had security personnel uncovered the weapon because illegal possession of the weapon applied in either scenario.
The charge is quite serious. New York, home to some of the nation's strictest gun laws, aggressively prosecutes gun crimes. Criminal possession of a weapon in the second degree is punishable anywhere from a minimum of 3 1/2 years to a maximum of 15 years in prison, Campbell said. A state 2006 law eliminated the ability of judges to decide sentences in certain possession cases.
Despite authorities’ low tolerance for firearms possession, the 22-year old Bowers will need to hope his mitigating circumstances bring leniency and, perhaps, a lesser charge that does not have a mandatory sentence.
Bowers just completed an impressive comeback from a torn Achilles tendon injury. Having suffered the injury in May, Bowers recovered and returned to the field in October despite concerns the injury might sideline him for the whole season. Bowers was quite possibly in line to take over a starting role with left defensive end Michael Bennett scheduled to become a free agent next month, but those plans are, at best, up in the air for now.
While Bowers faces significant legal hurdles, he also could face discipline from the NFL. The league reviews every legal incident involving players and reserves the right to hand down suspensions and/or fines depending on circumstances.
The Bucs, who were made aware of the matter before it became public, were still trying to obtain further details on the situation as of Monday evening, according to general manager Mark Dominik.
"We are aware of the situation and are gathering information," he said in a statement. "We will withhold comment until we know all the facts."