What we know (and don’t know) about Florida Gators, rental cars and ‘Tay Bang’

The bizarre story in Gainesville looks as if it will cloud the Florida Gators as the open camp later this week. [ MONICA HERNDON  |  Times ]
The bizarre story in Gainesville looks as if it will cloud the Florida Gators as the open camp later this week. [ MONICA HERNDON | Times ]
Published July 31 2018

There's a lot we still don't know about the relationship between a Gainesville man nicknamed Tay Bang and some members of the Gators' football team.

We don't know definitively whether the 22-year-old man, Devante "Tay Bang" Zachery, bet on Florida football games, as one-time friend and tight end C'yontai Lewis claimed. We don't know how, or if, the alleged gambling affected the football team. And we also don't know the possible repercussions of Zachery telling police that he gave discounts on rental cars to two Gators.

But as this bizarre story continues toward the start of fall camp, here's what we do know: The tension could have become tragic, and its fallout might not be over.

Police reports first obtained by First Coast News show at least one altercation between football players and Gainesville residents, and at least two other instances that could have resulted in violence.

The first took place on Feb. 17 when Gainesville police confirmed a fight involving an unspecified number of football players and "local guys" at the Rain Nightclub.

Eight days later, the same Gainesville Police Department officer saw 8-10 football players "walking very aggressive" toward a park. He warned them that "coming out here to fight would only get them into trouble" and that "it was not smart to load up the team to travel to someone else's neighborhood with the intent to fight." The players agreed and left, according to the police report.

An incident in May could have been much, much worse. As previously reported, University of Florida police determined that standout athlete Kadarius Toney and defensive tackle Kyree Campbell had airsoft guns that resembled an AR-15 and AK-style rifle. Zachery later told police that he was sure Toney had a real AR-15, not an airsoft lookalike.

Police warned Toney and Campbell that the situation could have been tragic if officers saw them with realistic rifles on campus. The incident could have also resulted in bloodshed if Zachery or his associates responded with weapons of their own.

The friction appears to have continued, based on two reports released Tuesday by Gainesville police.

In one dated Wednesday, Zachery told police that one of his friends knocked out UF's leading receiver, Tyrie Cleveland, on July 4. Zachery said that he "is in fear for his life" and that he was told "there is money behind this" — which he believed to mean that players "had a price out on his head."

The concern seems to be mutual, according to the second report.

During an early-morning traffic stop on July 22, police found a black AR rifle "lying across the back seat" of Toney's car. That's the same type of weapon Zachery believed Toney possessed in the incident two months earlier. The report does not say when Toney bought the weapon, but he told police he had it with him "for protection because of the locals."

Toney initially refused to stop and tried to drive away a second time before initially pulling over, according to the police report. Both he and teammate Brian Edwards were handcuffed during the 18-minute stop and released because of their clean criminal backgrounds, according to the report.

The story will continue to cloud the program as the Gators prepare to open camp Friday.

Toney and Campbell have both been referred to UF's Student Conduct and Conflict Resolution department for possible discipline for having weapons on campus. It's an imperfect comparison, but Cleveland and Rick Wells were suspended for the 2016 opener for firing BB guns at the Keys Residential Complex (although both players initially faced felony charges in that case).

Four other players — Cleveland, Wells, tight end Kemore Gamble and blue-chip quarterback Emory Jones — also face possible discipline from UF for lying to police.

The other potential on-field concern comes from Zachery telling police that he gave rental car discounts to Lewis and linebacker Vosean Joseph through his job at Enterprise.

We don't know the details; Zachery wouldn't elaborate Tuesday with the Tampa Bay Times, and a manager at Enterprise declined to answer questions. It's also worth noting that UF police previously said Zachery was not truthful with them, although that doesn't mean he's lying in this case.

If accurate, it could violate NCAA rules, if players received the extra benefit because of their status on the football team. UF is looking into the claim.

Until any new information trickles out, here's all we know for sure: A weird situation in Gainesville could have been much worse.

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