Fri, Feb 02, 2007 - Page 23 News List

Tank speaks out about his guns

AFP , MIAMI, FLORIDA

Chicago Bears defensive tackle Tank Johnson stretches before football practice at the University of Miami on Wednesday in Coral Gables, Florida. The Bears take on the Indianapolis Colts in the Super Bowl on Sunday.

PHOTO: AP

The Chicago Bears' Tank Johnson defended his extensive gun collection and says people are too quick to stereotype him because he is black and sports tattoos.

The 25-year-old embattled defensive tackle from Tempe, Arizona, who is awaiting trial on gun possession charges, was given permission last week by an Illinois judge to attend Super Bowl 41 with his teammates who will face the Indianapolis Colts on Sunday.

"I am young, I am black, I got tattoos," Johnson said. "It is easy to stereotype me. I've learned a lot about people and when you learn about people, you know to stay away from them."

Johnson, who keeps three pit bulls as pets, was arrested Dec. 14 and according to prosecutors he was in possession of three rifles, three handguns and a cache of ammunition.

"I just got caught up in the whole thing of being a normal guy," the 1.9m, 136kg Johnson said.

"The way I got to where I am today, you'll never know or understand," he added.

"White America or however you want to put it, it is what it is. I grew up different. When you see me walking down the street, I don't look like you. I don't talk like you and I don't walk like you," he said.

"It is easy to say, `He's just like the rest.' There is an opportunity to stereotype me right there. It is just the way I am," he added.

Asked why a powerful man like him needed so many firearms, Johnson said, "Ah, well, I'm not sure, know what I mean? I'm from Arizona, man. I live in the desert and that's the kind of stuff we do in the desert."

Johnson has been arrested three times since 2002 and police have been called to his home more than 30 times because of incidents connected to the dogs and shooting the guns.

Police seized two assault rifles in the raid at his home and his late bodyguard, William Posey, was arrested for narcotics possession. Posey was fatally shot two days later while he and Johnson were at a nightclub.

Johnson has been arrested enough times that a Chicago judge had confined him to his home except to go to work. Prosecutors argued that Johnson's December arrest violated probation from a 2005 gun charge.

Last March, prosecutors dropped battery and resisting arrest charges filed against Johnson when a police officer who scuffled with the Bears starter outside a nightclub refused to proceed with the case.

That arrest led to violation of probation charges filed against Johnson, who had been placed on 18 months' probation in November of 2005 after pleading guilty to a misdemeanor gun possession charge. But that violation charge was dismissed when the battery case was dropped.

The NFL is trying to combat domestic and gun violence among its players by a tough new set of rules and counseling.

The league's personal-conduct policy requires players who engage in criminal activity to get a psychological evaluation and, if needed, take anger management courses.

Players convicted of a crime also face suspensions and fines.

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