Bamberg native and NFL player Da’Quan Bowers went to jail Monday in New York after police say he tried to carry a gun aboard a US Airways flight to Raleigh, N.C.
Bowers approached a ticket counter at LaGuardia Airport around 11 a.m., according to the New York Post, and told airline employees he had the .40-caliber Smith & Wesson pistol in his carry-on bag. Also in the bag with the pistol was a clip with eight rounds and “under the law it’s considered a loaded gun,” an unnamed source told the Post.
The Post said Bowers was accompanied by his girlfriend, who resides in Raleigh.
Meris Campbell, a spokeswoman for the Queens County District Attorney, told multiple news outlets that Bowers was charged with second-degree criminal possession of a weapon, a Class C felony that carries a minimum sentence of three and a half years and a maximum sentence of 15 years upon conviction.
“He alerted the authorities to his weapon because he was getting ready to go on the flight, but it’s illegal to carry a handgun in New York City,” Campbell told the Tampa Tribune. She told the Tampa Bay Times that Bowers would have faced the same charge if the gun had been discovered by airport security personnel.
It’s the same charge faced by former New York Giants wide receiver Plaxico Burress after his gun accidentally discharged in a Manhattan night club in 2008, noted Mike Garafolo of USA Today. Burress ultimately pleaded guilty to a lesser charge, attempted criminal possession of a weapon, and served 20 months in prison.
The Buccaneers issued a terse statement: “We are aware of the situation and are gathering information. We will withhold comment until we know all the facts.”
The NFL’s statement was equally terse.
The incident “will be reviewed under our league policies,” spokesman Greg Aiello said on NFL.com.
Bowers’ first court appearance was expected to be an arraignment Monday evening in Queens Criminal Court, where a judge was decide whether to set bond.
Bowers, who turns 23 Saturday, was scheduled to visit Columbia on Friday for an event honoring his birthday, according to social media reports.
Bowers was named the 2007 T&D Prep Football Player of the Year at Bamberg-Ehrhardt High School. At Clemson University, he led the nation with 15-1/2 sacks and earned All-American honors.
He was projected be an early first-round pick in the 2011 NFL Draft before undergoing knee surgery a few months before the draft.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers selected him in the second round, No. 51 overall, and Bowers, a 6-foot-4, 288-pound defensive end, appeared in all 16 games as a rookie, finishing with 1-1/2 sacks.
Last May, he suffered a torn Achilles tendon during an off-season workout but made what Bowers called one of the fastest recoveries in NFL history. He missed the first six games of the 2012 season before recording 13 tackles in the final 10 contests of the year.
Bowers, the son of a gospel singer, has a distinctive “nice guy” image in his hometown, especially since he has remained near to friends and family despite his success as a professional athlete. He surprised his old high school team with brand-new uniforms and last November he came back to distribute Thanksgiving meal items to needy families.
“It’s all about giving,” he said at the time. “These are the people that I grew up with, the people that basically raised me. ... My success is a blessing and dream come true. ...
“I try to give back as much as possible to help my community at any time or any place. It’s just a small token of appreciation for what they’ve done for me. I just had good people around me that kept me on the straight and narrow path to success.”
Contact the writer: email@example.com and 803-533-5552. The Associated Press contributed to this report.