Ken Kolker and 24 Hour News 8 web staff -
KALAMAZOO, Mich. (WOOD) -- One of the two former Western Michigan University football players charged with a Kalamazoo home invasion already has a criminal case that involved a gun and marijuana pending in his home state of Ohio.
It took Target 8 less than an hour Monday to track down records of Bryson White's March 2016 arrest through Warren County Juvenile Court in Mason, Ohio, and the Mason Police Department. In Ohio, like Michigan, juvenile court records are open to the public.
The records show that three days before his 18th birthday, White was pulled over in a swerving car. Mason police said the car reeked of marijuana. When police asked if they would find pot in the car, White said they had smoked it all on the way.
Officers found a .38-caliber Smith & Wesson handgun in a backpack. There was a band aid on the trigger, apparently to eliminate fingerprints. Police said White refused to cooperate when asked about it. There was also a mask and a glove in the car.
White was charged with driving under the influence of marijuana and driving on a suspended license. His passenger was charged with carrying the gun. White's trial is set for late September in Ohio.
The incident was before White joined WMU as a wide receiver. Monday night, WMU Director of Intercollegiate Athletics Kathy Beauregard said the school was not aware of the case before bringing White on board.
"In May, 2016 a concern was brought to our attention related to Bryson White's character. At that time, our coaching staff did follow up on this concern, contacting Mason high school officials. We received positive reinforcement as to Bryson's character including the specific assertion of no known law breaking incident," Beauregard continued in a written statement.
In a separate, earlier statement to Target 8, Broncos spokesman Rob Beuerlein confirmed the team does not conduct criminal background checks on recruits. Beuerlein said the team is reviewing recruiting procedures, including the possibility of background checks.
Broncos head coach P.J. Fleck held a press conference Monday before Target 8 learned of White's prior case. When asked if he was aware of anything in his past that could have indicated something like this could happen, Fleck replied, "You dig as much as you want, you can say you have something, you don't have something, you can dig as a head coach as much as you want and it is what it is at this point, and you just have to be able to use it for the future players as you continue to recruit them."
White and fellow former WMU football player Ron George are accused of forcing their way into a woman's apartment near WMU campus in Kalamazoo on Friday. The woman, who 24 Hour News 8 is not identifying, said they struck her and threatened her with a gun. She said they demanded money and drugs and ransacked her home. Police tracked them down because White had apparently previously texted the victim and sent her suggestive Twitter messages, one of which listed his address.
The two men, both 18-year-old freshmen, were arraigned Monday morning on charges of armed robbery, first-degree home invasion and larceny.
A judge set bond at $100,000 each, saying they pose a flight risk because they are both from out of state. George, a linebacker from Pittsburgh, asked the judge to lower his bond, but the judge denied his request, saying that he has only been in Kalamazoo a few months and already posed a danger to the area. White also asked the judge to lower his bond and was denied.
Both men later posted bond and were released, according to an official at the Kalamazoo County Jail.
George and White were immediately suspended after their arrest and later dismissed from the team.
"There is zero tolerance for anything like that within our culture. Zero," Fleck said during Monday's press conference.
"I brought those two gentlemen into our culture and if I would have told you I knew what was going to happen, I wouldn't have obviously done that because that's not what our culture's about," he continued. "I feel like I failed because I couldn't work in their lives to get them to not make that decision. We do everything we possibly can, every single day, to teach and promote decision making and we will continue to do that."
The victim in the home invasion wondered how WMU could have been unaware of the Ohio case.
"That surprises me a lot that it was either missed, I guess you could say, or just looked past because of his athletic ability," she said. "I guess that flew under the radar. To a lot of people, a lot of people are going to say it was because he was such a great athlete."
"I will not be defined by two people's actions," Fleck said during the press conference.
Target 8 did not find any prior criminal record for George.