Russell County Sheriff Heath Taylor’s cousin Brian Downing has been identified as the Alabama fan allegedly videotaped placing his genitals on an unconscious LSU supporter in a New Orleans Krystal restaurant after the Jan. 9 college football championship, the sheriff said Thursday.
Taylor confirmed Downing and Phenix City attorney Walt Gray came to the sheriff’s office in Phenix City about 2:15 p.m. While they were there, Taylor talked to New Orleans Police Detective Corey Lymous, who’s investigating the incident. Downing and Gray then left for Louisiana, Taylor said.
At that time, no arrest warrants had been issued, Taylor said: “They said if any warrants were issued before he could get to New Orleans, he could turn himself in there.”
Taylor said when he heard Downing’s name mentioned in connection with the New Orleans case, he notified his cousin’s family and told them to bring Downing to the sheriff’s office. He was ready to have his cousin arrested, he said, but then learned no warrant had been issued.
“I never spoke to Brian,” Taylor said. He told relatives to get Downing to the sheriff’s office “ASAP,” he said. “And they got his daddy, and his wife, and his attorney, and they all came to my office, and I told his attorney, ‘If there’s a warrant, he’s going to jail, here, right now, and they can extradite him down to New Orleans.’ I think the problem is New Orleans isn’t clear what they’re charging him with.”
Initially posted on YouTube, the video had the Internet all a’Twitter Thursday with reports that Downing, a graduate of Phenix City’s Central High School, was the man on camera. The video went viral and web searches for “Brian Downing” were widespread.
Shot by a passerby, the four minute and 49-second video shows a man in an LSU shirt face-down on a counter as raucous Alabama fans gather around him, chanting “Roll Tide!” and stacking empty Krystal hamburger cartons on his head and shoulders. Eventually one of the Alabama fans unzips his shorts, exposes himself, climbs onto the counter and simulates a sex act over the unconscious man’s head, his genitals making contact.
A New Orleans Police Department news release Wednesday reported the incident took place about 11:45 p.m. Jan. 9 in the New Orleans Krystal at 116 Bourbon St. The department’s sex crimes unit learned of it Jan. 17, when informed of the video posted online. Under still photos from that video, the police statement read in part: “The video displayed the above male suspect committing a sexual battery upon another male subject.”
It described a “wanted subject” as white, 5 feet 7 inches to 5 feet 11 inches tall, medium build, unshaven and wearing a University of Alabama jacket and white shirt.
The Ledger-Enquirer has been unable to reach Downing, 32, who worked for Hibbett Sports in Columbus.
A spokesman for Hibbett Sports said Downing was fired Wednesday afternoon after the company learned he allegedly was involved in the New Orleans incident.
“We felt like we did a thorough job in the investigative process, and we were comfortable with the decision that we made,” said Scott Myers, vice president of human resources and loss prevention.
Myers would not say where Downing worked or in what capacity. Ledger-Enquirer archives show a Brian Downing was managing Hibbett Sports’ Bradley Park Drive store in 2002.
New Orleans police had yet to confirm Sheriff Taylor’s account when the Ledger-Enquirer called Thursday afternoon.
“When he gets here, that’s when we’ll do our talking. We’re not denying it, but we have to have actual proof that we have him (in custody),” said Frank Robertson, public information officer for the New Orleans Police Department.
On Thursday a man claiming to be the LSU fan in the video called Birmingham radio host Paul Finebaum’s sports-talk show and apologized for having been so intoxicated, saying he had drunk “just a mixture of things, mostly Jack Daniels.”
Identifying himself only as “Sam,” the caller said: “I just want to start off by saying that I just want to apologize to everyone for getting drunk out of my mind. The last thing I remember is I was wanting to go to Krystal to get a sack full. I was going to split it with my girlfriend. I blacked out from there. I never even remember making it to the restaurant.”
Later he added: “It’s just an embarrassing situation. My girlfriend won’t even talk to me.”
The caller said he talked to New Orleans police on Wednesday.
Records available online showed a 32-year-old Brian Downing with a Smiths Station, Ala., address, in Lee County. Calls to a number listed for that address were unanswered. Lee County Sheriff Jay Jones said New Orleans authorities had not contacted his office in reference to Downing.
The sports website Outkick the Coverage reported that postings to an Auburn Rivals message board identified Downing as a 1997 Central High School graduate.
The website said it called a telephone number for Downing and spoke with his mother, who had not heard of the incident, compelling the caller to explain it.
“As awkward phone conversations go, this ranks right up there with calling a girl for the first time in 7th grade,” wrote Outkick the Coverage’s Clay Travis. “I’m not going to quote her because she seemed so stunned by what I told her, but she promised to call me back.”
Metro editor Chuck Williams and staff writers Jim Mustian and Jeff Hendrickson contributed to this report.