On November 25, 2012, according to a Florida State University Police Department Officer Report for Incident both Jameis Winston and roommate Chris Casher were stopped in reference to two black males carrying a “long barreled handgun” on the bike trail near the Southern Scholarship Foundation houses. After being commanded, both individuals dropped to the ground and were handcuffed behind their backs. At some point the “pellet gun” was placed on the ground which the officer “did not initially see.” Once the officer confirmed it was a pellet gun, the two suspects were identified by their FSU ID’s, returned their gun and released with no charges.
Misconception #1: He had a gun on campus, the campus has a gun ban, why not kick him out?
USA Today was one of the first to report on the incident and to their credit, they were also one of the first to correct themselves with an Editor’s note indicating their earlier version indicated they were stopped on campus and corrected it to say “across the street from campus.” The media, however, generally just run with the initial story to develop their talking points without ever correcting the story and most of the public masses believe what they hear the first time and it is hard to get any of them to sway from that initial impression.
As you can see in the image below which was taken from Google Maps, the campus ends once it gets to Stadium Dr. to the east and Tennessee St to the north. You can clearly see Doak Campbell Stadium in the picture and through the parking lot across from the stadium is a tunnel which runs under Stadium Dr. at the corner of Pensacola St. Once you are on the other side of this tunnel, you are no longer on FSU’s campus. They were seen behind the the Southern Scholarship Foundation (SSF) houses which are also not part of FSU property at all. The bike trail connects FSU’s campus to many housing areas near campus and runs all the way to Ocala Rd.
If he wasn’t on FSU’s campus, why was FSU PD responding?
As you can see it connects many student off-campus residents to campus. Years ago, the FSU Greeks, at least most, were moved off campus to a large piece of land indicated in the above image and the bike trail also connects them to campus.
Students and locals often refer to the trail as the Ted Bundy Trail because it can have a creepy, lonely feeling while you walk along it at night as it is very dark, you always feel like eyes are on you and it takes you to a pretty lonely creepy tunnel to get you onto the FSU campus and in itself has not been devoid of any crime.
Because so many students use this trail on a regular basis to walk and bike to and from campus, FSU regularly patrols this trail in their SUV units and on bike.
Years ago, FSU installed Emergency Blue Light Telephones (EBLT). These blue light poles are located all over campus as they are on nearly every college campus in the country. FSU installed these EBLT’s along the trail all the way to Ocala Rd. When you push the emergency button on the pole, it sends a call directly to the FSU PD to help you. When standing at one pole, you can always see two poles, one where you can go and one where you may have come from.
So for many reasons, FSU PD responds to anything in this area and in this case does not mean Winston was ever on campus with a pellet gun.
Why wasn’t he suspended for this incident?
The easiest answer is, it wasn’t really that big of a deal. It is the south and a lot of people have pellet guns and shoot squirrels and as you can see in the image above, it is by far the most wooded area anywhere nearby and has easy access from his residence.
Another reason is, nobody knew about it. The officers saw it was a pellet gun and let them go with no harm done. Since it was a call out to a gun threat, an incident report needed to be made, but since it wasn’t a big deal and Winston had yet to become a star on the field, it never made any headlines. It wasn’t until a year later when the sexual assault allegation really took off and people began to pry into every detail of his life, the report was discovered.
At the time, he had only been on campus a few months, so was obviously young and immature, but he was also going through his redshirt season. It is a bit difficult to suspend anyone while they aren’t playing in games and there is no proof there was no punishment handed down internally as that is not reported by FSU football coaches.
Finally, if it was a court case, there is no proof Winston himself actually possessed or fired the the pellet gun at all. If you read the report carefully, you will notice Winston is never named as holding, possessing, carrying, pointing, firing or doing anything with the pellet gun. The officer did not even see the pellet gun until it was on the ground and any mention of it is applied to “they” not just Winston.
So although “they” were described in the report, there was no witness to Winston actually having held the gun at all.
Was it anywhere near the proximity of a campus, residential area and/or a high traffic trail? Absolutely, and for that reason we would classify it as a dumb idea, an immature mistake, a bonehead move, etc, but a mistake made which warrants any type of punishment along the lines of a suspension or even a black eye on his reputation long term? No, not at all. It’s something a high number of kids his age at the time do all over the country every day without issue and really shouldn’t even be continually brought up every time a Winston conversation surfaces.