Last Friday’s drag race between a pair of Buffalo Bills defensive linemen after practice rapidly closed in on one of the Southtowns’ busiest intersections at a time of day when school buses carried children home for the weekend, shoppers buzzed around a nearby mall and bicyclists and pedestrians basked in some mid-afternoon sunshine.
The high-speed race between a white Jaguar and a black Camaro never reached Milestrip Road and McKinley Parkway though.
That’s because Pro Bowl lineman Marcell Dareus lost control of his 2012 Jaguar just after 3:15 p.m., crossed over two lanes of oncoming eastbound traffic, ran up over a curb, through some grass and the parking lot of the Mongolian Buffet restaurant before crashing into a tree, according to Hamburg Police.
Uninjured, the 24-year-old Dareus then got out of his crumpled vehicle and fled the scene, police said.
The other driver in the race, said to be at the wheel of a souped-up Chevy Camaro, was Bills’ defensive lineman Jerry Hughes, multiple sources told The Buffalo News Tuesday. He drove away after Dareus’ vehicle crashed.
Dareus was arrested at 3:30 p.m. Friday, less than 15 minutes after the crash, according to Hamburg Police.
Lengthy skid marks and a damaged tree about 10 yards from the restaurant remained at the scene Tuesday. Dareus faces multiple charges. Hughes had not yet been charged in the case.
After Tuesday’s practice, News reporters questioned Hughes about his possible involvement in the race.
“I can’t elaborate on that,” Hughes said.
Hughes, 25, of Sugar Land, Texas, did, however, back his teammate in a statement that seemed unintentionally ironic.
“I can’t really elaborate on Marcell’s behalf, but I just know that when he gets back, he’s going to be ready to play football and he’s going to hit the field full speed and he’s going to wreak havoc,” Hughes said. “That’s all that I can really speak on. Knowing him for going on a second year and knowing him as a player, I know he’s going to come back full speed.”
Dareus, of Hoover, Ala., was charged by Hamburg Police with reckless endangerment, reckless driving and participating in an illegal speed contest, all misdemeanors, as well as vehicle and traffic counts, including leaving the scene of a property-damage accident, failure to keep right, speeding and making an unsafe lane change.
The incident comes just weeks after Dareus’ May 5 arrest in Alabama on felony drug charges. Dareus was initially stopped by an Alabama state trooper for speeding on Interstate 20 between Birmingham and Atlanta when he was found to allegedly have synthetic marijuana in his possession, according to a report by WVUA-TV in Tuscaloosa, Ala.
Dareus, who was not at the Bills’ Tuesday practice, told reporters last week that the Bills “believe” in him. The team benched him at the end of last season for showing up late to meetings but later picked up an option on his contract for 2015.
“They know that I’m not a trouble guy,” said Dareus, two days before Friday’s alleged drag race. “I’m not trying to do anything. Things happen, and we’re moving forward, and they know I’m going to grow into the guy they want me to be.”
The incidents fired up the community on the Buffalo News’ website and talk radio.
“No more chances, get this guy out of town before he injures or kills someone,” wrote one commenter to buffalonews.com. “The safety of citizens is far more important than the Bills W/L record.”
Another, calling to mind the death of Dareus’ brother in a 2012 Alabama triple-homicide, added, “I’m a big fan of Dareus and I hope the Bills keep him, but he really should be ashamed of himself. As someone who lost a brother, how is he going to feel if he kills someone else’s family member? Obviously the last two wake-up calls didn’t stick. Will this one? I think Dareus has a good heart, but he needs to stop being so selfish.”
“Just a couple of young guys in fast cars,” wrote a third commenter to the News’ website with a different point of view. “These things happen every day around here ... the fact that these 2 guys are football players doesn’t make it right. But come on, so much attention over a car accident where no one was even hurt.”
Also Tuesday, a YouTube video surfaced that claimed to show Hughes driving his Camaro. Posted by the user “Bumbera’s Performance,” it was found with this description: “Buffalo Bills #55 Linebacker, Jerry Hughes’ 2010 Camaro SS was finished and ready to tear up the streets! ENJOY!”
Buffalo Bills coach Doug Marrone told reporters Tuesday he knows who was driving the car allegedly racing against Dareus’ Jaguar, but wouldn’t identify that person.
“I do have knowledge of it,” said Marrone, “but, I cannot disclose that information at this time because of the legal process.”
Dareus, who appeared with an attorney for a Monday arraignment in Hamburg Town Court, was released on his own recognizance pending a return to court at 10 a.m. June 17.
Two sets of skidmarks could be seen at the site of the Hamburg accident. The skidmarks appear to start at Milestrip Road (Route 179) and go into Mongolian Buffet Restaurant parking lot at 3513 McKinley Parkway. The marks go over a grassy area between the lot and the roadway.
A tree about 10 yards from the entrance of the restaurant appeared damaged.
Four days after the arrest, Hamburg Police gave the most detailed account of the investigation so far.
According to the statement, police “received a complaint of two vehicles, a black Camaro or Mustang, and a light colored vehicle, traveling westbound on Route 179 near McKinley Parkway, possibly racing” at 3:16 p.m. Friday.”
As patrol officers headed to the area, another call came in to police, this time reporting that a “white vehicle” had crashed near the Mongolian Buffet Restaurant.
The statement said Officer Robert Paas arrived at the restaurant “and found that a white 2012 Jaguar left the roadway on Route 179, east of the entrance to the Mongolian Buffet, and had struck a tree in front of the restaurant.”
Witnesses at the scene told investigators that they saw two vehicles – a black Camaro and a white Jaguar – traveling westbound on Route 179 near the north entrance of the McKinley Mall at a high rate of speed, police said.
The witnesses said the Jaguar left the roadway near the entrance of the Mongolian Buffet, continued westbound over the grass and onto the parking lot of the restaurant before striking a tree on the northeast front portion of the restaurant property, the police statement said. The incident caused “extensive damage to the Jaguar and damage to the tree.”
Police identified Dareus as the driver of the Jaguar.
Hambug police said their investigation is ongoing to determine the identity of the driver of the black Camaro. Police said they would not release official reports until the investigation is completed.
News Staff Reporters Tim Graham, Mark Gaughan, and Shawn Campbell contributed to this report. email: firstname.lastname@example.org