Updated on Monday at 8 p.m.
Florida Gators sophomore linebacker Antonio Morrison was arrested for the second time in five weeks on Sunday morning, this time on misdemeanor charges of resisting arrest without violence and harassing an on-duty animal after he barked at a police dog.
He was subsequently suspended two games by Gators head coach Will Muschamp, who expressed his displeasure over Morrison getting in trouble with the law a second time this summer in an official team statement released Sunday afternoon.
“I’m extremely disappointed in Antonio Morrison’s decision making,” he said. “He has been suspended from the team and will miss at least two games to begin the season.”
Morrison, expected to start at middle linebacker to begin the season, will miss Florida’s showdowns with Toledo on Aug. 31 and Miami on Sept. 7. It is unknown if he will be allowed to practice with the team. Should Morrison not miss any additional time, he would be able to return to the field against Tennessee on Sept. 21.
The specific public order crime Morrison was charged with falls under Florida Statute 843.19 for offenses against police dogs, fire dogs, SAR dogs, or police horses.
Any person who intentionally or knowingly maliciously harasses, teases, interferes with, or attempts to interfere with a police dog, fire dog, SAR dog, or police horse while the animal is in the performance of its duties commits a misdemeanor of the second degree.
The charges of resisting arrest without violence and harassing an on-duty animal are first- and second-degree misdemeanors, respectively.
According to the police report, Morrison was in a “group of several males” that was walking on Southwest 13th Street when they approached a K9 police car that was stopped to investigate a white vehicle called in following a “suspicious incident and disturbance” at an “after-hours business.”
Morrison then “walked up to the open window of my marked patrol vehicle, stopped and made barking sounds in the window where my K9 partner Bear was located,” according to the arresting officer. “K9 Bear immediately began barking at Antonio, diverting his attention from my investigation and towards him.”
When the officer attempted to handcuff Morrison in front of his vehicle, he initially resisted. Following multiple requests and two additional officers arriving on scene, he relented and was handcuffed, searched and placed in a police car.
“Antonio spontaneously stated several times that he made a ‘woof-woof’ sound at the dog because the dog barked at him,” according to the arresting officer.
K9 Bear is described as “a dual purpose, certified patrol canine [that is] relied upon to protect the citizens of Alachua County and deputies of the Sheriff’s Office.”
Morrison was released on his own recognizance on Sunday morning after spending a few hours in jail. He was booked at 4:15 a.m.
His second arrest in the last five weeks, Morrison was first popped on a charge of misdemeanor simple battery on June 16 after allegedly striking a bouncer.
He accepted a deferred prosecution agreement from the state of Florida, agreeing to pay fines, perform community service and complete other tasks during a six-month probationary period in order to get the charge expunged from his record.
Morrison was disciplined internally by the Gators, according to Muschamp, who explained at the 2013 Southeastern Conference Media Days on July 16 that additional punishment had yet to be determined.
Whether Morrison’s latest arrest is determined to violate his prior deferred prosecution agreement remains to be seen. Should it be determined that it does, he would be eligible for additional penalties including potential jail time.
Update – 8 p.m.: State attorney Bill Cervone told Florida Today‘s David Jones that upon his “initial review” of the details of the incident, he is “concerned about the legality of the arrest.” Jones also notes that an “arrest for disturbing a police action … must [include] some element of malicious interference” and that the “second charge of resisting arrest cannot be applied if the initial arrest is ruled unlawful.”
“My office will look into this as expeditiously as possible,” Cervone added. “If there is a crime involved then the previous deferral is subject to revocation. If not then that will not likely happen unless there is some other material breech.”
Update – Monday, July 22 – 8 p.m.: Alachua County Sheriff Sadie Darnell told The Gainesville Sun on Monday that Morrison should not have been arrested but rather been given a warning after barking at a police dog early Sunday morning. “Our deputies are caught in a lot of threatening situations and are having to make rational, very well thought out decisions in the context of chaos, and sometimes they don’t think them all through,” she admitted.
In the video below, obtained by The Sun from the Alachua County Sheriff’s Office, Morrison is seen tensing his arms (resisting arrest without violence) while asking Deputy William Arnold, the officer whose K9 he barked at, not to arrest him. “Officer, please let me go,” Morrison later said while in the cop car. “I’m not looking for any trouble. I just want to go home. Officer, you know I’m not trying to cause any trouble. You know this. You see me. I’m a good kid, man. I’m not even from down here, man. I never go out, officer. Officer, I just said ‘woof-woof’ at the dog. … This is crazy, man. Officer, I’m not looking for any trouble. I just said, ‘Woof-woof.’ The dog barked at me.”