The ECU Pirates are ranked in the Top 25 after a 4-1 start in 2014
The ECU Pirates are ranked in the Top 25 after a 4-1 start in 2014

My mother and father went to East Carolina University. My wife and I met at East Carolina, as did my brothers and their wives. I worked as a student assistant in the Sports Information Department, including the 1991 season were we went 11-1 and defeated NC State in the Peach Bowl.

Scratch me, and I bleed purple and gold.

That is why this story sickens me.

Greenville Police have cited three ECU football players accused of firing BB guns into the ground while they were traveling in a vehicle, prompting a nearby elementary school to go on lockdown.

Linebacker Yiannis Bowden, 18, receiver Curtis Burston III, 19, and linebacker Markel Winters, 19, were all cited for discharging a weapon within city limits and released from custody, according to the Greenville Police Department.

Police said they pulled the three men over at about 1:30 p.m. Tuesday at the intersection of 5th Street and Brownlea Drive. Witnesses reported seeing the men firing weapons from their car toward the ground as they were traveling along 3rd Street, according to investigators.

Officers arrived at the scene within minutes, then took Bowden, Burston and Winters into custody. Police said they soon learned the three suspects were firing BB guns, although they did not appear to have aimed at anyone.

Wahl-Coates Elementary School was locked down for about 10 minutes Tuesday afternoon as a precaution because it was close to the scene. No injuries were reported.

Dumb, Dumber, and Dumberer
Dumb, Dumber, and Dumberer

The idiots were equipped with Umarex XBG, a Walther PPS, and Crossman 1911, all BB pistols. They were apparently “just playing” at being thugs.

They almost got themselves killed.

What they didn’t know is that the neighborhood they were cruising through had been the scene of an armed robbery in the not-to-distant past, and that one of the armed robbers had just been sentenced to a federal penitentiary. The homeowner who was the victim in that previous crime called 911, fearing that the three football players with apparent weapons in their hands were part of the criminal gang intent on retaliation for the conviction.

They are very lucky that the homeowner wasn’t a gun owner. If the homeowner or a neighbor had opened fire on what appeared to be gang members, no one would have blamed them.

They are also very lucky that the Greenville police officers that conducted a felony stop were professionals who kept their cool, who didn’t open fire on them.

What on Earth were they thinking, pointing and firing  BB guns out the window of a car, mimicking a drive-by shooting?

I can only imagine what must be going through the minds of ECU head coach Ruffin McNeill and athletic director Jeff Compher.

Bowden, Burston, and Winters are fortunate to have survived the incident, charged only with a misdemeanor violation of a city ordinance for the discharge of weapons.

One or more of them could have just as easily ended up in the Pitt County morgue.

Update: The three players have been suspended from the team indefinitely.

Three East Carolina freshmen football players, linebacker Yiannis Bowden, receiver Curtis Burston and linebacker Markel Winters, have been suspended indefinitely from all team activities effective immediately following a BB gun citation according to an announcement from head coach Ruffin McNeill on Wednesday.

The decision came after McNeill and ECU athletics officials were initially made aware of the charge by the Greenville Police Department on Tuesday afternoon.

“One of the benchmarks of our program is that our players will be held accountable for their actions on and off the field, in the classroom and in the community,” McNeill said. “It is with this commitment in mind that I have suspended these individuals indefinitely for their actions that were irresponsible and dangerous. They have acknowledged their mistake and now part of our job is to help them learn from this situation.”