Indianapolis Colts safety Joe Lefeged was arrested early Saturday after officers found a semi-automatic pistol in the car he was riding in, police said.
Lefeged was a front-seat passenger in a Chevy Camaro that fled a traffic stop for speeding in northeast Washington just after midnight. Officers smelled marijuana in the car and found a plastic bottle of vodka and orange juice in the centre console and a semi-automatic pistol under the front passenger seat, police documents show. A receipt and purchase paperwork showed Lefeged bought the gun this year for about $900 US, police said.
Lefeged and another passenger were caught when they tried to run from the car in different directions, police said. The driver ran away and was not immediately caught.
Lefeged was being held without bond at D.C. jail on a weapon charge. He faces a preliminary court hearing Tuesday. A lawyer listed as representing him did not return a call seeking comment Saturday afternoon.
"We are aware of the reports regarding Joe Lefeged in Washington, D.C. At this time, we will have no further comment on the pending matter until we gain more information," the Colts said in a statement Saturday.
Police say officers stopped the car for speeding and because another passenger in the car was standing completely upright in the backseat. After police repeatedly told the driver to put the car in park, the driver sped off, nearly striking officers who had surrounded the white convertible, police said.
Police say they recovered the car nearby and arrested Lefeged as he tried to run away.
Officers found a .40-calibre semi-automatic handgun "in plain view sticking out from underneath the front passenger seat," as well as a clear, plastic container of alcohol, according to charging documents.
Prosecutors aren't pursuing charges against the other passenger, a spokesman for the U.S. Attorney's office said.
Authorities say Lefeged had Maryland State Police purchase paperwork for the pistol but was not authorized to carry the weapon in D.C., which has strict gun laws.
Lefeged, 25, grew up outside of Washington and was a star high school football player in the region. Now entering his third NFL season, he played college football for Rutgers and was signed by the Colts as an undrafted free agent in July 2011. He started four games last season and recorded two tackles and a forced fumble in a playoffs loss to the Baltimore Ravens in January.
The arrest comes as the NFL grapples with gun violence.
Tight end Aaron Hernandez was charged this week with orchestrating the execution-style slaying of a semi-pro football player and was swiftly released by the New England Patriots. Last year, former Kansas City Chiefs linebacker Jovan Belcher fatally shot his girlfriend and then turned the gun on himself.