Chargers' Merriman Accused Of Choking Girlfriend Tequila

By: AP Email
By: AP Email

SAN DIEGO (AP) -- San Diego Chargers star outside linebacker Shawne Merriman was arrested Sunday and accused of choking and restraining his girlfriend, reality TV star Tila Tequila, as she tried to leave his suburban home.

Tequila, 27, signed a citizen's arrest warrant, charging Merriman with battery and false imprisonment, San Diego County Sheriff's Lt. Gary Steadman said.

Deputies responded about 3:45 a.m. to Merriman's house in Poway, north of San Diego, after a woman called to say she was choked by the player and thrown to the ground when she tried to leave, Sheriff's Department spokesman Jan Caldwell said at a news conference.

Merriman, 25, was taken into custody and booked into the central jail at about 8:30 a.m. He was released shortly after 11 a.m. Caldwell said she didn't know if he posted bail or was released on his own recognizance.

Tequila was taken to a hospital. Her condition was not immediately available.

Tequila, whose real name is Tila Nguyen, is best known for A Shot at Love with Tila Tequila, which ran for two seasons on MTV. The bisexual dating show featured men and women vying for Tequila's affections. She has also modeled for Playboy and other men's magazines.

Scott E. Leemon, an attorney for Tequila, said in a statement that neither she nor her representatives would comment publicly on the incident.

Merriman's agent, Tom Condon, said he hadn't heard about the arrest when contacted by The Associated Press.

Merriman was the 12th overall pick out of the University of Maryland in the 2005 draft, and had 39 1/2 sacks in his first three seasons. The three-time Pro Bowl selection was getting back into shape after missing nearly all of last season following knee surgery.

The Chargers, picked by some as Super Bowl favorites, open the regular season a week from Monday night at Oakland. Players had been off since after Friday night's exhibition finale against San Francisco. They are due back at practice on Monday.

"It's disappointing to hear about the issue involving Shawne Merriman," Chargers general manager A.J. Smith said in statement. "We'll continue to monitor the situation and let the legal process run its course."

Smith didn't return a call seeking further comment.

Smith often speaks of signing "character" players, yet the Chargers have had their share of embarrassing off-field problems in recent seasons.

In 2006, there were seven run-ins with the law by San Diego players, including linebacker Steve Foley's shooting by an off-duty police officer who suspected him of drunken driving.

Merriman was suspended four games for testing positive for steroids in 2006, and linebacker Stephen Cooper was suspended by the NFL for the first four games of the 2008 season after testing positive for a banned stimulant.

Additionally, Smith reportedly has been unhappy with Merriman's extracurricular activities. He has various business ventures and is enamored with the Los Angeles social scene. While on injured reserve last year he flew back and forth to Los Angeles once a week to appear on a football preview show.


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