Atlanta police questioned Ravens middle linebacker Ray Lewis about a double murder in the city yesterday morning at which his leased limousine was seen.
After a night of Super Bowl parties, two men were stabbed to death in Atlanta's Buckhead entertainment district after an altercation, Atlanta police said, and several of the participants left the scene in a black Lincoln 220 Navigator limousine leased by Lewis as several shots were fired from inside the vehicle.
Officers and detectives involved in the investigation said Lewis was in the limousine as it fled the site, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution said in today's editions.
Police said the limousine had Maryland license plates and was leased from a Baltimore company called All-Stretched Out Limousine Service. The owner of the company was unavailable to comment last night.
Lewis, who was in Atlanta for Super Bowl weekend, had little to say about the incident last night, but said he was cooperative with police, who believe Lewis knew some of the parties involved.
"I cooperated fully," Lewis told The Sun. "As for the situation, I have no comment."
Ravens and the player's agent, Roosevelt Barnes, said Lewis was not a suspect.
"He is not involved in any aspect of this investigation as far as I know," Barnes told the Journal-Constitution.
But the Ravens will await the outcome of the investigation before making a decision about disciplining Lewis, 24.
"Our official position is that we'll wait and see what the situation is," said Ravens coach Brian Billick.
"I don't believe he had anything to do with it," said Ravens owner Art Modell. "I'm going to give Ray the benefit of the doubt and defend him until something is proven otherwise."
The two murder victims were identified by the Atlanta medical examiner's office as Richard Lollar, 24, and Jacinta Baker, 21, both of Decatur, Ga. Both were believed to be partying in the area before the incident, police said. One man was pronounced dead at the scene shortly after the 4 a.m. fight, and the other died later at Grady Memorial Hospital.
Police believe the argument began at the Cobalt Lounge, which was the scene of a shooting two weeks ago that left a Marietta, Ga., man dead.
Lewis said last night that he had been cleared by Atlanta police to leave the area and expects to fly this morning to Hawaii for the Pro Bowl on Sunday, when he will play on the AFC squad for the third straight year.
But privately, team officials as well as fellow players are concerned about the friends Lewis has become acquainted with during the past three months. On Dec. 6, assault charges were filed against Lewis after an incident in a Baltimore County bar.
According to a police report, Catrice Parker, 24, of Baltimore, said Lewis struck her on the left side of her face and she fell into the bar at the Windsor Mill Inn in the 7200 block of Windsor Mill Road. Lewis is expected to stand trial early next week.
Ravens officials are expected to meet with Lewis about this latest incident and his friends as soon as he returns from the Pro Bowl.
"The devil is busy, always after God's children. He is always trying to get you one way or another," Lewis said when asked about the two incidents.
When asked if he was concerned about his friends and his relationship with the Ravens, Lewis said: "It is something I will discuss with them, but not something I can talk about now."
Lewis, 6 feet 1 and 240 pounds, is considered by many to be the best middle linebacker in pro football. He has led the Ravens in tackles since joining the team as a first-round draft pick in 1996. He finished with 198 last season, which may have been his best with the team.
On Nov. 19, 1998, Modell made Lewis the highest-paid Raven, as well as the NFL's highest-paid linebacker, with a four-year contract worth $26 million, which included a $7 million signing bonus.
According to the Journal-Constitution, a break in the Atlanta case came just a couple of hours after the killings when detectives found the stretch limousine behind a Holiday Inn on Peachtree Road.
Homicide detectives spent most of the day talking to the driver of the luxury sedan, the Journal-Constitution said, but they would not provide details concerning those conversations.
Police were called to the hotel after someone told them a man with bloodstains on his clothing had gotten out of the Lincoln Navigator limousine and entered a bathroom in the hotel lobby to wash off, officers told the Journal-Constitution.
No arrest warrants had been issued as of last night.