The night before I left home for college, I was sitting in the back seat of a friend’s Firebird (at least I think it was a Firebird) in the drive-through line of the local Burger Chef (at least I think the place was called Burger Chef). Four of us were in the vehicle, a blended group of acquaintances who each knew the driver well (think Kramer at the wheel of a car containing Costanza, Mickey, and Newman).
So another car rolled past us. Older kids. Though it might surprise some of you, I have the tendency at times to be a smart ass, and something prompted me to yell something — I can’t even remember what it was — to the other car.
On went the brake lights and out jumped one of the guys. Since the Firebird had two doors, I was tucked away, largely out of view and most importantly out of reach. So the guy literally pulled the kid sitting in the front passenger seat out of the car and beat the hell out of him. The guy then looked into the car and said something like, “Do the rest of you have anything to say?”
I still think about that night once every year or so, and I still feel guilty that some guy I didn’t know very well (hell, I can’t even remember his name) got punched hard in the stomach and maybe in the face because of something I said.
Take that feeling and multiply it by 100,000, and that’s how Broncos receiver Brandon Marshall surely feels, every day of his life.
We posted earlier today the link to the audio of his testimony from the trial of Willie Clark, the man who is accused of killing Broncos cornerback Darrent Williams via a hail of bullets directed at the limo in which Williams and others were riding. Though we gradually have realized via the media accounts that Marshall and Williams weren’t joined at the hip that night, we still had a vague sense that they generally were traveling in the same pack, given that they were on the same team.
After listening to Marshall’s testimony, it’s clear that they were in completely separate groups. It’s also clear that, under the prosecution’s theory of the case, Clark fired bullets into the limo carrying Williams because Clark assumed that Marshall was in it.
Marshall had been fighting with Clark and others who were with him. During a verbal exchange outside the club, Clark had pretended to have a gun, prompting Marshall to say, “You aint got no f–king gun.” It was Marshall who then got angry and tried to climb a snow bank and was punched in the jaw by one of the other guys with Clark and then concluded after the others scattered that it would be prudent to get the hell out of there.
Said Marshall, “Being from where I’m from . . . if there ain’t no police there breaking up no fight or an argument and guys take off . . . a light should go off meaning danger. . . . The first thing I thought about was, ‘These guys [are] running, he’s acting like he has a gun. He may be running to go get a gun.'”
Though the link from the Denver Post craps out before Marshall’s testimony is finished, we heard enough to conclude that Marshall was the primary target of the bullets fired by Willie Clark, under the facts as the prosecution believes them to be.
So now it’s perfectly clear why Marshall thinks of the situation “every night.” Marshall’s cousin got into a verbal squabble with some guys, Marshall tried unsuccessfully to defuse the situation, Marshall eventually “escalated” the incident to the point where a guy went to get a gun, the guy got a gun, and the guy fired the gun into a limo other than the limo in which Marshall was riding.
It’s easy for Marshall to conclude that the bullet that killed Williams was meant for him, especially since at the moment the testimony cuts out, Marshall is explaining that at one point in the evening he got in the Hummer limo in which Williams was riding, which likely represents an effort by prosecutors to explain Willie Clark’s confusion regarding the proper target of the bullets that were fired.
Given all of the problems Marshall has had, it’s hard to ever regard him as sympathetic. But we feel badly for him on this one. For the rest of his life, he has to carry around the feeling that he helped stir up a situation that ultimately claimed the life of a teammate who also was, by all appearances, an innocent bystander.