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Jeff Arnold•February 17, 2016

WHO IS
DANIEL
HOLTZCLA
W?
POLICE
OFFICER
“There is no off-field situation that you will ever come
across. I’m a gym rat, I love the game. I will give 110%
every snap, every play. I’m a guy that is very coachable and
can lead on and off the field. I refuse to be a bust because
my work ethic is too good and I refuse to quit or settle for
mediocrity.”Daniel Holtzclaw; Footballfutures.com, 2007

O n Dec. 10, 2015, the day he turned 29 years old, at the moment his identity

flipped from being presumed innocent to that of a convicted rapist, Daniel Holtzclaw sat
in an Oklahoma County courtroom and began to tremble uncontrollably.
His body, which had been conditioned for football over the years — first as a high school
All-State linebacker two hours away in his hometown of Enid, Oklahoma, and then
again as a four-year starter in college at Eastern Michigan — began to rock forward and
then back like a metronome marking time in a life that, at least as Holtzclaw knew it,
was quickly slipping away.

Forward then back.

Forward then back.

Dressed in a black suit, aqua blue shirt and striped tie, Holtzclaw sobbed audibly,
overwhelmed by the day’s sudden gravity. His body, folded in two, see-sawed back and
forth, almost in an attempt to find solace within himself and the confined space he
occupied along with his lawyers behind a wooden table. As he rocked, his future in the
balance and his past in question, Holtzclaw stared mostly at the floor, but glanced up
every few seconds and nodded his head from side to side in apparent disbelief while a
36-count litany of sins that included sodomy and rape, was read aloud by Judge
Timothy Henderson.

A short distance away, Holtzclaw’s father, Eric — a long-time police lieutenant back in
Enid — sat and held his wife, Kumiko. The couple, who had drained their life savings
and retirement to fund their son’s defense, had entered the second-floor courtroom that
day with the expectation of a verdict of not guilty. Once their son was free, they planned
to take him back to their rural community, where they could somehow begin to piece
their lives back together. But in that instant, in the same moment the couple sat in
agony and watched the youngest of their three children and only son begin to painfully
absorb the blows of the series of guilty verdicts, the vision of a relieved celebration
vanished. As their son wept and continued to rock back and forth in his seat, Eric
Holtzclaw — the cop who had attempted to remain calm throughout the trial and then
the lengthy deliberations — sat defenseless, unable to protect Daniel from harm.

“It’s like someone is killing your son,” he said later.

When it was over, after an all-white jury had convicted the former Oklahoma City patrol
officer on 18 of 36 counts against 8 of the 13 alleged victims, all-black, including four
counts of first-degree rape, Holtzclaw was led in front of Henderson, who had verbalized
into the court record what the jury had determined to be true over 42 hours of
deliberation. Before stopping to face the judge, Holtzclaw — who had not testified in his
own defense during the month-long trial — broke his silence. His face still displaying the
fresh emotions of the moment, the former football star looked squarely at the jury,
shook his head, and allowed five words to escape.

I did not do this.

“I like Ray Lewis and his leadership ability to take respect.


‘You don’t earn respect, you take it.’”Daniel Holtzclaw;
Footballfutures.com

N early six weeks before Holtzclaw was sentenced to 263 years in prison for

committing the series of rapes and unthinkable sexual crimes while on duty as a police
officer in Oklahoma City’s Springlake Patrol Division, Cortland Selman, a medical device
salesman from the Detroit suburbs, sat on an unforgiving courtroom bench only seven
feet away from his former Eastern Michigan teammate and attempted to fit the pieces of
a confusing and disturbing puzzle together.
Selman, who also played linebacker, appeared to be an unlikely ally. The black native of
Detroit had already been vilified on social media, which saw the crime primarily in racial
terms, for his support of his friend, but was unmoved. To him, this was about loyalty,
about standing up for a teammate, not skin color. “I’m here as his brother,” he had told a
reporter.

Like everyone else, Selman wondered how it was possible that Holtzclaw could have
become the racial predator who preyed on black women, most of whom already had a
history of run-ins with the police over drugs or prostitution. How, Selman questioned,
could Holtzclaw have morphed from being a model police officer dedicated to serving
his community one day to a being someone that Oklahoma County district attorney
David Prater painted at Holtzclaw’s sentencing hearing as a “rapist masquerading as a
law enforcement officer.”

How the hell does that happen?

Joe Robbins/Getty Images


Selman and Holtzclaw were close. Ten years before, the two roomed together on road
trips and, as football players are fond of saying, had “gone to war” together, playing at a
Mid-American Conference program that has traditionally struggled to exist as anything
more than anything beyond a designated opponent for larger, more successful teams.
Kids, after all, don’t grow up dreaming of playing in the MAC.

Now, a decade later, at a time when many of Holtzclaw’s former college teammates
chose to remain at least a stiff-arm’s distance away since the accusations against the
former star middle linebacker first surfaced in 2014, Selman had come out as one of his
staunchest defenders. He believed, like Holtzclaw’s close friends and family members,
that there was no way Holtzclaw could be guilty.

Even before Holtzclaw’s trial began, Selman studied the case of the teammate he had
met within days of Holtzclaw’s arrival at Eastern Michigan as a freshman in 2005. Like
other Holtzclaw supporters, Selman considered the stack of evidence the prosecution
had built and looked for clues to understand how Holtzclaw could have possibly become
the monster he was publicly portrayed to be.

Each time, Selman reached the same conclusion: There was just no way. There was
nothing he could point to in his time with Holtzclaw that squared with that of the man
in trial, or the testimony from the 13 women victims during Holtzclaw’s trial. Their
claims had proven both graphic and disturbing. In each case, women ranging in age
from 17 to 57, most with troubled pasts, claimed that at some point during a six-month
period between late 2013 and the summer of 2014, each was victimized by a cop who
stopped them due to some traffic offense, usually determined their vulnerability due to
past offenses, then forced himself on them sexually in exchange for not making their
legal issues any worse than they already were.

Jannie Ligons, the grandmother whose initial complaint became a focal point of the
state’s case, testified that in the summer of 2014, Holtzclaw pulled her over for erratic
driving at 2 a.m., just as his shift ended. Ligons was was on her way home after playing
dominoes with friends. During the traffic stop, Ligons, who, unlike other Holtzclaw
victims had no criminal record, testified Holtzclaw started to conduct a search during
which he ordered the daycare worker to lift her shirt and then remove her pants.
Holtzclaw, according to Ligons’ testimony, lowered the beam of his flashlight between
her legs before unzipping his pants and ordering her to perform oral sodomy.

“Come on,” Ligons testified Holtzclaw said at the time, “I don’t have all night.”

Believing she might be shot if she did not comply, Ligons did as Holtzclaw ordered. She
later told local media outlets that all she could see at the time “my life flashing in front
of my eyes and the holster on his right side.” In every case, prosecutors maintained
Holtzclaw sexually assaulted and raped his victims believing they would be too
frightened and intimidated to report him. Ligons, however, was not. Her accusations
triggered an internal investigation by the Oklahoma City Police Department’s sex crimes
unit that resulted in the 36 charges Holtzclaw faced in court. It also inspired an
investigation by the Associated Press that found the case was not an anomaly. Over a
six-year period more than 1,000 police officers nationwide had been stripped of their
badges after being found to have committed sexual assaults and rape while on duty.

Following his department’s internal probe, Oklahoma City Police Chief Bill Citty wrote
in Holtzclaw’s termination letter, “Your offenses committed against women in our
community constitute the greatest abuse of police authority I have witnessed in my 37
years as a member of this agency.”
In stark contrast to the state, Holtzclaw’s attorney, Scott Adams, characterized his client
as a model law enforcement officer who was “naïve and very gullible” and who was
trying to better understand the section of Oklahoma City he had been assigned to. He
also attempted to cast Holtzclaw’s victims as being street smart and under the influence
of drugs or alcohol at the time they claimed to have been sexually assaulted. Adams had
based his legal strategy, including the decision not to put Holtzclaw on the witness stand
in his own defense, on the claim a jury would never believe his client’s accusers. In
Adams’ view, Holtzclaw was the victim.

In most instances, it is extremely difficult to convict


police officers of sexual crimes: the police
themselves conduct the investigation and juries
generally find police officers more believable than
their accusers.
Like Adams, Brian Bates, a licensed Oklahoma City-based private investigator and
controversial self-professed “video vigilante,” known for taping prostitutes and johns to
combat human trafficking and licensing the product to news outlets at a profit (his
website is called “JohnTV”), painted Holtzclaw in a similar light. Bates, who spent
hundreds of hours looking into Holtzclaw’s case for Adams, deemed the former football
star to be immature and naïve. He determined that through a series of critical
procedural errors involving the women he came into contact with, Holtzclaw, guilty or
not, nevertheless left himself wide open to be charged with abuse of his authority by
leaving windows of time spent with each woman unaccounted for. In Bates’ view,
Holtzclaw was swept up in the furor over treatment of black Americans by police officers
in other places, turmoil that had already resulted the #BlackLivesMatter movement and
sparked riots in places like Ferguson, Missouri, and Baltimore, a brewing perfect storm
that was only getting worse.

“The emotions were already there and all (the public) needed was a poster child and
Daniel came along at the absolute worst time for Daniel,” Bates said. “And he was done.”
Yet this ignores the fact that in most instances, it is extremely difficult to convict police
officers of sexual crimes: the police themselves conduct the investigation and juries
generally find police officers more believable than their accusers. But the magnitude of
Holtzclaw’s crimes, the evidence that Holtzclaw had indeed come into contact with each
of the women, the surrounding climate, and the veracity of his victims on the stand
delivered a different verdict.

Regardless of the conviction, Selman still refuses to believe that his former college
teammate could have carried out such a sexually deviant plan while working under the
guise of a police officer. The entire time Holtzclaw spent on campus in Ypsilanti,
Michigan, his name had never been associated with trouble. Independent searches and
police and court records confirm that, as do the recollections of former teammates and
university officials alike, none of whom could recall that Holtzclaw had ever made any
serious missteps during his entire Division I playing career. And yet, here Holtzclaw
was, on trial for his life.

Like many of those who hadn’t remained in regular contact with Holtzclaw over the
years, Selman first learned of the allegations against the former freshman All-American
second-hand. On Aug. 22, 2014 — the day Holtzclaw was arrested and — news of the
charges against the then third-year cop broke — Selman’s cellphone started to buzz with
a series of 10 text messages from mutual friends and former teammates. Each included
either a link to a news story or a question wondering whether Selman believed the
reports coming out of Oklahoma City. Selman eventually clicked on one of the links and
started reading in utter disbelief. The headlines were all the same: Oklahoma City cop
arrested held on $5 million bond.

“Jesus Christ,” Selman said.

“I was like, ‘Has Claw gone completely rogue?’ I was like, ‘What happened?’”

He wasn’t the only person who knew Holtzclaw to ask that question. Far from it.

“My negatives? I would have to say everything. I am never


settling for good when I can become great. I always am
trying to have continuous improvement.”Daniel
Holtzclaw; Footballfutures.com
Tyler Grey had just arrived home to his Oklahoma City apartment as a televised report
broke the shocking news of Holtzclaw’s arrest.

Grey, like Holtzclaw, called Enid home and grew up in a place situated somewhere in the
space that exists between an up and coming medium-sized city with all of life’s modern
conveniences and small-town America where everyone still knows everyone else’s
business. Oil and agriculture provide most of the jobs in Enid, and the relatively
prosperous city is home to about 50,000 people — 81 percent of which are white and
only 4 percent black, and only 16 percent living in poverty.

Grey, who played college ball at Northwestern Oklahoma, was a year older than
Holtzclaw during their time on Enid’s varsity football team. As a teenager, the
quarterback had become close friends with Holtzclaw, often spending weeknight
evenings with him and other older teammates playing poker, video games or cruising
along what Enid locals refer to as “The Strip.” The short stretch of South Van Buren St.,
bordered on one end by the Family Video store and by the Sonic fast food restaurant on
the other, is where the rural town’s version of American Graffiti plays out, teenage men
and women cruising the street waiting to grow up.
Copyright 2016 by Eric Holtzclaw. All rights reserved. Used with permission.
Grey describes him and his teammates as straight-laced as they come, well aware that in
a town like Enid, popular athletes were easily identified and often the target of jealousy,
particularly those from prominent families. During his four years in high school,
Holtzclaw fit squarely into that category.

Holtzclaw’s parents both came from law enforcement backgrounds. Eric Holtzclaw
worked for 20 years in the Air Force while serving at the Yokota Air Force Base in
Japan. While there, he met Kumiko, who also worked for the local police force. Daniel
was born in Guam, and after moving to Enid when Daniel was 2, the family settled into
routine, small town life. Daniel played on a number of youth league sports teams, and
the Holtzclaws raised their son and his two sisters to be respected citizens who had a
clear understanding of right and wrong, and who judged people based on their
character, not the color of their skin. Eric Holtzclaw dismisses any suggestion that his
son was prejudiced, noting his number of black friends and that as an Asian-American,
his son grew up well aware of issues of cultural diversity.

For Daniel, being the son of one of the city’s most recognizable police officers meant
steering clear of trouble even more of a priority. In Enid, troublemakers found it damn
near impossible to maintain anonymity in a place where rumors of who was doing what
circulated quickly.

“Even if you’re not involved with something, there’s a chance that your name will get
brought up, just because everyone knows who you are,” Grey said. “People just assume
that when you’re a high-profile athlete in a small town.”
Photo: Jeff Arnold
Using football to escape the town’s rural setting has never been uncommon among
players at Enid High, which includes state football championships in 1964, 1965, 1966
and 1983. A free-standing sign situated on one end of D. Bruce Selby Stadium bears the
names of 12 “Plainsmen Pros,” the fraternity of former Enid stars who have reached the
NFL, of whom Baltimore Colts center Ken Mendenhall is the most notable. Joining the
Plainsmen Pros has always provided the motivation for new generations of local Friday
night heroes like Holtzclaw, who from a young age, harbored dreams of a successful
playing career in college football and beyond.
To have a chance to do so required dedicated work — on and off the field. Even when the
Enid football program has struggled to reach the playoffs, they abided by the slogan,
“One school, one town, one team,” and were taught to stay on the straight and narrow.

“You will never become the person you want to be if you’ve got skeletons in your
closet,” Enid’s team leaders would tell underclassmen. And Daniel Holtzclaw — by most
accounts — did not.

So when news broke of Holtzclaw’s arrest nearly two years ago, Grey — like many within
Enid’s borders - had trouble believing that the teammate he had known back in high
school could have become a completely different person. When Holtzclaw returned to
Oklahoma after college to attend the Oklahoma City police academy, the two even
shared an apartment. Grey detected no change in his friend.

“I would venture to guess if you were to do a long background of Daniel within the town,
you probably won’t find much,” Grey said. “And that’s saying something and points to
the kind of kid that he was.”

Not just in Enid, but 1,000 miles away in southeast Michigan.

“I believe that if I had the opportunity to play at a


powerhouse program I would have accomplished more.
Coming from a smaller school made me more on the grind,
hungrier to succeed, win, to achieve excellence.”Daniel
Holtzclaw; Footballfutures.com

D aniel Holtzclaw first arrived on Eastern Michigan University’s campus in

2005, a member of coach Jeff Genyk’s second recruiting class. Like many of his
teammates, Holtzclaw turned up on campus with a bit of a chip on his shoulder having
been mostly overlooked by top-tier programs. Unlike the University of Michigan, the
perennial college football powerhouse seven miles up Washtenaw Avenue in the more
affluent and more picturesque college town of Ann Arbor, Eastern Michigan, despite a
student population of about 25,000, is a member of the Mid-American Conference,
more “mid-major” than big-time. Eastern Michigan’s lone postseason bowl appearance
came in the 1987 California Bowl, following the program’s only MAC championship. The
team, a traditional doormat, hasn’t posted a winning record since 1995.

G Fiume/Getty Images

Above: Former Eastern Michigan coach Jeff Genyk


Ever since, the university has struggled to maintain Division I legitimacy or even garner
much popularity within Ypsilanti’s city limits. Inside a mostly empty Rynearson
Stadium, where players during Holtzclaw’s tenure ran onto the field through ersatz
smoke generated by hand-operated fire extinguishers, on-field success did not come
easy. Yet, despite its failings, the program became a haven for players like Holtzclaw
who were overlooked by more successful programs but still possessed enough talent to
extend their football careers for another four years.

Holtzclaw stood 6 feet tall and weighed 204 pounds when he arrived for football duty
fresh off successful senior season back in Enid. He had had finished his prep career as a
first-team All-State selection his senior year after leading the Plainsmen with 123 tackles
— a school record 25 of which came in Enid’s season-opener.

Still, he was deemed only a two-star recruit by Rivals.com, the influential recruiting
website. He could have thrived at a FCS or D-II program, but Holtzclaw aimed higher,
committing to his beloved Oklahoma Sooners as a preferred walk-on. But after then-
Oklahoma assistant coach Kevin Wilson alerted Genyk that Holtzclaw might be a player
that could make an immediate impact at middle linebacker at a smaller, lesser-known
program like Eastern Michigan, Genyk reached out. Holtzclaw chose to go to Eastern
Michigan as a means to not only play football and pursue his dream of playing in the
NFL, but to keep his parents from having to foot the bill for his college education. To act
so unselfishly, say those who know him best, was just who Holtzclaw was.

Back home in Enid, Holtzclaw had built a reputation as a serious weight room warrior.
While in high school Holtzclaw bench pressed 360 pounds and squatted 500 pounds,
becoming one of the strongest players on the Plainsmen roster. He, along with his
teammates, often made early-morning visits to the YMCA to sneak in extra workouts
and usually spent their lunch hour in the gym, more than willing to put in the time if it
meant garnering attention from college football programs with full-ride scholarships to
hand out.

The pattern continued at Eastern Michigan. From the moment Selman first met
Holtzclaw, he realized the out-of-state newcomer was all business. Holtzclaw wanted
more than an education and just another four years of football. He wanted to make the
game his life, to claw his way from college football and into the NFL.
Naturally quiet and reserved, Holtzclaw quickly proved himself to be an off-season
workhorse. He struck teammates as a nose-to-the-grindstone worker, who rarely spoke
unless he was spoken to, and who went about his business without bothering anyone
around him. In meetings with his fellow linebackers, Holtzclaw exhibited a keen sense of
humor, which played in direct contrast to the fierce competiveness he constantly kept on
display inside the weight room. But, still a freshman and eager to earn the respect of his
teammates, Holtzclaw was never one to call attention to himself and tout his own
abilities. Instead, he chose to devote himself to putting in the work necessary to get the
most of out of his body.

Even if he didn’t possess the size that other linebackers playing at more prominent
Division I programs were gifted with, Eastern Michigan’s strength and conditioning staff
came up with a plan to get Holtzclaw where he wanted to be.
Jamie Sabau/Getty Images
Holtzclaw quickly became all about the work that would be required for him to stand
out, not only at Eastern Michigan, but among every linebacker in the country. For
despite the program’s lowly status, over the years the school has sent nearly 40 players
on to the NFL, including a pair — Green Bay Packers offensive lineman T.J. Lang and
Detroit Lions defensive end Jason Jones — during Holtzclaw’s stay.

The path best traveled to the NFL was a topic Holtzclaw often discussed with his dad
who, like any father, wanted to see his son’s football dreams be realized. During visits up
to north to Ypsilanti during Holtzclaw’s career, Eric Holtzclaw constantly asked those
around Genyk’s program if his son was doing everything possible to reach his full
potential. Holtzclaw was always mindful that at schools like Eastern, performance
mattered. That made him a regular in Jim Streeter’s sports information office to ensure
that his tackle total from the previous weekend’s games had been calculated correctly.
To stand out, he needed every tackle. Every play counted.

Intensity, on the field and in the weight room, became Holtzclaw’s calling card. It did
not matter that he was too small and too slow for the NFL. He would make up for it with
dedication and willpower. He would do whatever it would take.

“I think we all had a switch when you get on that field,” Selman said of his first
impressions of Holtzclaw. “You just have this focus when you get on the field or in the
weight room and that personality essentially takes over. But then when you get into that
outside world, you’re like, ‘Man, this guy is a totally different person.’”

“He had that jovial, teenage personality that a lot of us had. So it wasn’t like he was this
intense, serious guy all the time. There was definitely a switch that went off.”

By the end of his first fall camp, Holtzclaw earned a starting assignment at middle
linebacker, a spot he never relinquished for the remainder of his time at EMU. As a
freshman, Holtzclaw made 91 tackles and intercepted five passes, which earned him
first-team Freshman All-American honors by The Football Writer’s Association and
third-team Freshman honors from The Sporting News and College Football News. By
the end of his career he would go on to become the school’s second all-time leading
tackler with 437 — 13 shy of the school record.

Holtzclaw became one of the MAC’s top linebackers, earning a reputation as a hard-
hitter despite playing on a team that never won more than four games in any of his four
seasons. But his freshman season may have been his best. Only once was he named to
the All-MAC first team, and he was never named the most valuable defensive player on
his own team. The knock on Holtzclaw from the start remained: he just wasn’t big
enough for the NFL.

“He had that jovial, teenage personality that a lot of


us had. So it wasn’t like he was this intense, serious
guy all the time.”Cortland Selman
After adding 16 pounds in his first season, Holtzclaw continued to grow in size and
finished his senior year playing at 246 pounds. Although teammates knew Holtzclaw as
someone consumed by his off-season conditioning routines, rumors persisted that
Holtzclaw was taking performance-enhancing drugs as a way to bulk up. Similar
speculation also existed back in Enid after Holtzclaw packed on between 15 pounds and
20 pounds of muscle between his junior and senior seasons with the Plainsmen. Grey
recalls that innuendo began to swirl around town insinuating that the results of
Holtzclaw’s physical training were likely unnatural.

“People would say, ‘How can someone have a physique like that and gain so much
muscle without doing steroids?’” Grey said.

The steroid talk only picked up more steam at Eastern Michigan. Yet even that is
inconclusive. One former university official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity,
insisted any notion of impropriety was off-base and stated if any activity involving
performance enhancing drugs took place within the school’s relatively small university
community, it would have become public knowledge. It never did. Still, word of a
teamGong Show-style skit at the end of fall camp one season during Holtzclaw’s career
reached the office of Streeter, Eastern Michigan’s long-time, straight-shooting sports
information director.

Streeter, who was not present for the team meeting in question, said he was told by
players who were in attendance that one of Holtzclaw’s teammates took on the star
linebacker’s identity in a skit, appearing with a fake needle sticking out of his arm. Such
humor, Selman said, was commonplace around weight room junkies like Holtzclaw, who
were constantly working out. Yet to his knowledge, Selman claims that, despite the fact
that his body changed so much over the course of his career, Holtzclaw was never
singled out by the program for suspicion of using steroids.

Others, in awe of how quickly his body changed in four years, disagree. The ability to
bench press 400 pounds and squat 500 pounds as a college freshman made Holtzclaw
stand out from the start. At least one former Eastern Michigan player said he couldn’t,
in good conscience, rule out the possibility Holtzclaw could have had chemical
assistance by the end of his college playing career in 2008.

That player, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, recalls one instance when
Holtzclaw was attempting to break the program record for squatting weight. With
approximately 600 pounds on the bar, Holtzclaw completed the impressive lift and
then, unsure of what to do with his pent-up emotions, began to repeatedly head butt the
bar, banging his head into the metal over and over again.

“Everyone was like, ‘Holy shit,’ the player said, ‘this guy is fucking crazy.’”

Although the athletic department never investigated Holtzclaw for the use of steroids or
other PEDs, the questions never completely disappeared.
Copyright 2016 by Eric Holtzclaw. All rights reserved. Used with permission.
“If I had to speculate, I would definitely have to say that if there was someone who using
steroids, it would probably be Daniel Holtzclaw,” the former teammate said.
“He came in at 17, 18 years old and this kid was built like a brick house.”

More than six years after Holtzclaw’s playing career ended, speculation whether PEDs
were part of his workout routine continued. During a more than two-hour interview
with Oklahoma City sex crimes detectives regarding what were then allegations of sexual
assault, Holtzclaw’s physical condition raised concerns. Detectives were clearly
interested in exploring whether steroid abuse might have impacted Holtzclaw’s
behavior.

Detective Kim Davis, the lead investigator into the matter, asked Holtzclaw if he was “on
‘roids.”

“I’m not on steroids,” Holtzclaw answered, smiling and shaking his head, dismissing the
suggestion.

“A little bit?” Davis continued. “I don’t care — I’m not the dope police.”

“I’ve always been a big-boned guy,” Holtzclaw responded. “Football, athletic.”

Davis continued to press.

“You’ve got more than big bones,” she said. “You’ve got big muscles, too.”

Holtzclaw continued to defend his workout methods. Both Grey and Selman —
Holtzclaw’s former high school and college teammates — said Holtzclaw has always used
supplements to enhance his workouts. Holtzclaw told Davis he indeed did rely on
nutritional supplements while working out at Oklahoma City’s Four-Star gym, but
denied steroid use at any time. He acknowledged that he had started taking an over-the-
counter testosterone booster a year before his arrest. But that, Holtzclaw maintained, is
as far as it went.

“No ‘roids?” asked Davis one final time, also inquiring whether Holtzclaw would come
clean if he was using PEDs.

“No ‘roids,” Holtzclaw confirmed “I have nothing to hide when it comes to that. I’ve
always been a big guy, I work out all the time.”
“Off the football field, friends or coaches can tell you that I
stay out of trouble. I usually like to workout… maybe
throw in some Madden … My stick skills are amazing,
especially when it comes on defense with the hit
stick.”Daniel Holtzclaw; Footballfutures.com

A way from the field, Holtzclaw easily blended into the normal social life of an

Eastern Michigan student/athlete. Teammates said he was a regular at off-campus


gatherings at Pub 13, a nearby bar where students escaped to drink beer and dance, or at
Sticks, a sports-themed bar that sat atop Aubree’s, the popular local pizza joint. Yet in
those spaces or at other get togethers, Holtzclaw was never the loud life of the party or
heavy drinker like some other teammates who tended to make their presence known at
off-campus parties. But neither was he a silent wallflower who disappeared from sight.
He was a team leader, recognized as a football star at a place that had very few, and
seemed to accept that responsibility. Holtzclaw’s physical condition, athletic prowess
and exotic good looks due to his Japanese heritage made him popular with young
women, but for most of his time in Ypsilanti, Holtzclaw maintained a serious dating
relationship with a fellow Eastern Michigan student.
“Some people say, ‘Did you see (Holtzclaw’s
criminal trouble) coming?’ But we wouldn’t see any
teammate — any decent person — doing that.”Tyler
Jones
Holtzclaw and his girlfriend, like others their age, could often be found together at
parties, where friends said they were a typical young couple in love. Teammates found
nothing unique about the relationship. Although they recall how the two would
sometimes squabble and bicker over typical things couples their age often engaged in,
none recall ever hearing of any that ever escalated into an alarming level of aggression
or violence. Looking back, those who were routinely around Holtzclaw away from the
football field recall nothing that paints Holtzclaw as anything but just another college
student and certainly not as the sexual predator he would later be convicted of
becoming.

“Some people say, ‘Did you see (Holtzclaw’s criminal trouble) coming?’” former Eastern
Michigan quarterback and team captain Tyler Jones said. Like Selman, Jones is also
black but has a hard time viewing the case in racial terms. “But we wouldn’t see any
teammate — any decent person — doing that, so I think that’s a ridiculous question. I
don’t think any person would assume or see something that graphic in a person.”

Under during his five years at the helm of Eastern Michigan’s program that ended when
he was fired after the 2008 season, Coach Jeff Genyk constantly preached
accountability, on and off the field. Genyk, after leaving EMU, worked one season as a
broadcaster for ESPN before serving as an assistant at California, Nevada and
Wisconsin. He spent the 2015 season at Northwestern as Coach Pat Fitzgerald’s special
teams quality control coach. Recently hired as a special teams and running backs coach
at Vanderbilt, Genyk, like many others connected to the program while Holtzclaw
attended Eastern Michigan, declined to be interviewed.
Dwight Burdette/Wikimedia Commons
Throughout his tenure, Genyk regularly boasted to reporters and to program boosters
alike that his players knew how to keep their noses clean. In fact, similar to the safety
posting in an industrial workplace break room, Genyk kept a running tally of the
number of consecutive weeks his program went without an off-the-field incident. Genyk,
who came to Eastern Michigan following a stint at as an assistant coach at
Northwestern, also instituted a mandatory program in which players took part in police
ride-alongs, spending Friday and Saturday nights during the off-season patrolling the
surrounding community as a reminder of the trouble that could be found if players went
looking for it.

During the required two-hour shifts, players occupied the back seat of county patrol cars
as the local cops guided them through a typical night on the job. The rides extended
from Eastern Michigan’s campus to Ypsilanti’s neighborhoods and into nearby trailer
parks, providing athletes who routinely limited their free time to more sedate parts of
town a glimpse into the areas were officers were typically called to respond to trouble.

For some, the experience may have served as just that. But for others, and perhaps for
Holtzclaw, a ride through the seedier, poorer side of town might have proven both
fascinating and strangely seductive, a place where it is obvious the poor and the
powerless are vulnerable and easily victimized. Much more so than Enid, parts of
Ypsilanti are marked by poverty. A mixed-race community that is one-third black, 25
percent of the population lives below the poverty line.

Dwight Burdette/Wikimedia Commons


Like most cities located near Detroit, Ypsilanti had once been a booming automotive
town, where workers flocked to for employment at the local auto factories. The
population has dropped by a third since 1970, and General Motors closed down the
power train division plant in 2010. Although local officials have attempted to portray
Ypsilanti as an idyllic place to live, all parts of the city don’t necessarily fit that mold.
There is poverty, there are drugs, and at that intersection, like the section of Oklahoma
City Holtzclaw later patrolled as a policeman, there is often crime, some of which has
reached the Eastern Michigan football program.

In 2013, five years after Genyk was fired, Eastern Michigan wide receiver Demarius
Reed was shot to death at an off-campus apartment complex during an in-season armed
robbery. According to police, Reed was targeted by two men because he was well-
dressed on the night of his death.

Following the incident, three Eastern Michigan football players were charged in the
beating of the cousin of one of the men charged in Reed’s murder. The killing continued
a feud that one former university source said existed between members of Eastern
Michigan’s football program and locals within the Ypsilanti community.

Yet, with the exception of an off-campus 2005 stabbing of former Eastern Michigan
defensive back Tyler Griffin — the nephew of two-time Heisman Trophy winner Archie
Griffin — Genyk’s players tended to steer clear of the back seats of the police cruisers
they would occupy during the two-hour patrols.

“He’s never been in trouble. So him being in


trouble and talking his way out of it was never
something he has had to do.”Cortland Selman
The roster of non-offenders who took ride-alongs included Holtzclaw, a criminal justice
major at Eastern Michigan, someone who had reputation of taking responsibility for his
actions. Holtzclaw, who became one of the leaders of the Eagles’ defense by his senior
year, never shied away from owning up to mistakes, which Selman — Holtzclaw’s fellow
linebacker — said the manner in which Holtzclaw was investigated and later charged
and convicted all the more disturbing.
That trait may have been due to his upbringing, an environment where he had been
taught to respect the police and other authority figures. But more likely, one of his
former teammates suggested, is that Holtzclaw studiously avoided off-the-field issues
not only for moral reasons, but because of his intense desire to play in the NFL. He knew
NFL scouts would never look favorably on college athletes who didn’t know how to keep
themselves out of the headlines for actions committed off the football field, particularly
those, like Holtzclaw, who were not obvious NFL material.

“He’s never been in trouble,” Selman said. “So him being in trouble and talking his way
out of it was never something he has had to do. Whether he fucked up in practice or in a
game, he would never make an excuse.”

“When it comes to football I live, breath, eat it.”Daniel


Holtzclaw; Footballfutures.com

B y his senior year at Eastern Michigan, Holtzclaw had become a household

name, at least by MAC standards. He had the skills to succeed at a mid-major level and
made the most of it. High profile coaches at more prominent schools like Michigan, and
Florida and other perennial powerhouses knew that when they played Eastern
Michigan, they had to account for Holtzclaw in their offensive game-plan.
He entered his senior year as one of more than 80 players nationwide on the Bronko
Nagurski watch list for the best defensive player in college football, and one of 54
players on the list for the Lombardi Award, given to the best defensive player to play
within five yards of the line of scrimmage, usually linemen and linebackers. Though the
lists are prestigious, they hardly indicate that an NFL career is certain. Still, for a player
like Holtzclaw, appearing on the watch lists with consensus All-Americans and projected
first-round draft picks made it easier to imagine a future in pro football. But over the
course of the season, others stood out and Holtzclaw — hamstrung by playing for a
smaller school with a losing program — disappeared from the national radar.
Mark Cunningham/Getty Images
To those who analyze college football’s inner workings, Holtzclaw was known as a hard-
hitting, hard-nosed run-stopper, who, despite not being overly quick, moved well from
side to side. His instincts allowed him to avoid absorbing collisions with bigger players,
which in turn, helped make him a playmaker and one of the top players ever to come
through Eastern Michigan’s program.

But to those who truly understood what was required to make the jump from Division I
football to the NFL, Holtzclaw remained someone who would likely be on the outside
looking in, still too small, still too slow, still not good enough to make it beyond college.
Despite his body of work both on the field and in the weight room, Holtzclaw never, ever
projected as a legitimate NFL prospect in the way he had hoped. No matter what he did,
no matter how hard he worked or how determined he was, he couldn’t overcome his
height — only 6′1, or his speed, never better than 4.82 in the 40.

“The NFL is about measurables,” said long-time Eastern Michigan radio color
commentator Rob Rubick, who played seven years at tight end with the Detroit Lions.
“Coming from a MAC school and being a linebacker and not really having the
measureables, it’s tough. So I never saw it.”

After finishing his career as an All-MAC performer, Holtzclaw never drew the same NFL
attention as Lang, his 300-plus pound Eastern Michigan teammate, did before being
drafted in the fourth round and signing with the Packers. Despite excelling on a mid-
major conference level, Holtzclaw flew off the radars of NFL scouts, who like Rubick,
didn’t believe Holtzclaw had what it took to play at the NFL level.

“The NFL is about measurables. Coming from a


MAC school and being a linebacker and not really
having the measureables … I never saw it.”Rob
Rubrick
“I’m always going to get overlooked,” Holtzclaw said in a 2009 interview with the Ann
Arbor News. “There’s always going to be the bigger program with linebackers that are
going to overshadow me. I want to be drafted, but I’m always going to have that chip on
my shoulder no matter what happened and I’m always going to remember what
happened.” In fact, when Holtzclaw read a report in August of 2008 on SB Nation’s
Kansas City Chiefs blog, Arrowhead Pride, that dismissed his chances of playing in the
NFL referring to him as “not starting material,” but a player who might only make a
“great backup,” Holtzclaw personally contacted the author and lobbied on his own
behalf that he had a higher ceiling. He did not receive an invitation to attend the NFL
Combine, but said that at Eastern Michigan’s Pro Day, apart from his 40-yard dash, “I
felt I killed.”

While it’s true that Holtzclaw performed relatively well, particularly in strength tests,
most, if not all, scouts in attendance came to the same conclusion: In all likelihood, he
would never cut it as an NFL player. At the time, Holtzclaw acknowledged that being
known as a player who, for the most part, flew under or off scout’s radar screens
constantly pissed him off. After he wasn’t tendered an invitation to the combine, he
complained to Michigan-based online news site MLive about invitations going to “a
second-string linebacker who only started 10 of his last (13) games … Just because they
come from a big program, (people) think this guy is this and that.” Still, in the
estimation of most observers, Holtzclaw was, at best, the 15th best inside linebacker
eligible to be drafted, and some didn’t have him in the top 20.
Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images
He found that hard to take. He told SB Nation in April of 2009, “Right now, I’m focusing
on being drafted,” and was working with a strength coach and trainer. Yet no team had
asked him for a private workout, and he added, “I have prepared for the worst, of being
undrafted and going as a free agent.” He said he planned to spend draft day “at home
with my family in Oklahoma.”

His name was not called.


He did earn a rookie mini-camp invite from with the Detroit Lions, only to be cut. He
later inquired about catching on with the Canadian Football League, had some contact
with a European club team and spent time in camp with the Green Bay Blizzard, a
professional indoor football team, hoping that might create a pathway to the NFL, but
nothing came of it. His football career ended at Eastern Michigan, in Ypsilanti. Less
than one year after starring in the MAC, he was a former college football player, accent
on “former.”

If anything caused Holtzclaw to become unhinged, that may, in part, be what did. For
the first time in his life, he had failed and the goal he had long sought was no longer
available. For the first time, his strength and will had not been enough. Without an NFL
dream to aspire to, perhaps he felt that his sacrifices had been for nothing. As a football
player, he had believed he was in charge of his own destiny, now he was stripped of his
power.

Without football, Holtzclaw turned to law enforcement, continuing his family’s tradition
of turning out police officers, training at the Oklahoma City police academy, where he
was hired September of 2011. Yet his failure to play professionally remained a sore
subject even as Holtzclaw’s law enforcement career in Oklahoma City was getting
underway.

“Football dreams are hard to give up,” Holtzclaw told the Enid News & Eagle in 2013. “I
understand it’s a business, but you play every day from the age of 9 and put time in and
devote yourself to it. You understand you can get cut, but getting cut is still hard.”

Eric Holtzclaw says he always taught his son that integrity had to be at the center of the
attention of any law enforcement officer in order to properly serve his community. The
responsibility was one, the elder Holtzclaw said, that his son took seriously,
understanding that anything shy of that could lead to trouble.

Holtzclaw liked the fact being a cop wouldn’t keep him behind a desk like other jobs.
According to the Enid News profile, Holtzclaw, then 26, said he one day hoped to join
the department’s gang squad or its impact team that executes search warrants.

Being part of the gang unit, which he worked at as part of nine-day rotations, he said in
the News & Eagle interview, took him back to playing football.
“It reminds me of that adrenaline rush,” Holtzclaw said in the interview. “You are going,
going … chasing bad guys.”

“I understand it’s a business … You understand you


can get cut, but getting cut is still hard.”Daniel
Holtzclaw
But for much of his police career, Holtzclaw’s duties were more mundane. In Oklahoma
City, most patrol officers do so alone, and Holtzclaw was assigned to work the 130-
square mile Springlake Division in his squad car. His shift usually kept him on
Oklahoma City’s northeast side everyday between 4 p.m. and 2 a.m., the time when day
turns to night trouble often brews. This environment, while common in many of the
nation’s metropolitan areas, shared little with Holtzclaw’s upbringing in Enid or his
experience in Ypsilanti, even in those ride-alongs. According to some, drug use and
prostitution are part of everyday life on the east side, where residents often look away
from criminal activity and look on the police, not with respect, but with suspicion.

Despite being located roughly 90 miles from Enid, divided by the rural wide open space
inhabited only by cattle ranches and creek beds that dot the landscape around State
Highway 74, Holtzclaw was living and working in a world far away from anything he had
ever known before, a dangerous assignment that regularly brought him in contact with
people and lifestyles with which he had little prior experience. It was a place, he would
soon find out, where the police were not always considered welcome. For the former
football star with NFL aspirations, it had to be a come down.
Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images

Above: Brian Bates


“It’s that neighborhood that everyone talks about but very few people have been to,”
Bates said. “You don’t walk around at night there unless you belong there … It’s where
most of the crime happens, but from where the fewest 911 calls are received. Crime is
rampant and nobody calls the police.”

But to folks who call it home, characterizations of the area like those painted by Bates
aren’t entirely accurate. They see neighborhoods of modest homes where gun shots still
tend to startle people. Daily life in Holtzclaw’s patrol beat, they claim, shares little with
the portrait of street life portrayed in popular culture on TV dramas like The Wire. In
comparison to lower-income neighborhoods in places like Detroit and Chicago, many
who live in the area Holtzclaw patrolled don’t consider it overtly dangerous.

Still, even before Holtzclaw began patrolling the streets there, because of the way police
routinely patrol the neighborhoods in that part of town, residents have grown leery of
what seems to them to be an oppressive police presence.

Grace Franklin, the co-founder of OKC Artists for Justice, an advocacy group that
worked with several of Holtzclaw’s victims, grew up on the northeast side, and says
tension runs high between residents and members of law enforcement. Franklin says
police still pull folks over for questionable reasons, and residents have grown tired of the
way they are perceived by law enforcement officers. There are general feelings of
mistrust and invasion and it’s a place, Franklin says, where encounters with police can
“go sideways quite quickly.”

The troubles associated with the area, she said, have less to do with the people who live
there and more with the stereotypes that outsiders have created.

“It’s not like crack-heads running around at 12 o’clock — it’s not a fearful place in that
way,” she said. “It’s like any street that’s dark when you walk down it in the middle of
the night. It might be uncomfortable, but it’s not threatening in a way the many low-
income areas in larger areas are.”

Oklahoma City’s east side proved to be plenty problematic for Holtzclaw. It was there, in
forgotten neighborhoods no one outside them wanted to admit existed, where the
women who would eventually become Holtzclaw’s victims came into contact with the
young officer. During Holtzclaw’s trial, the fact he interacted with the 13 women he was
charged with assaulting was never in dispute. The GPS unit inside Holtzclaw’s patrol car
put him in the places where the women charged the incidents took place, and
Holtzclaw’s attorneys did not challenge that, something that helped to build the
prosecution’s case.

It is what happened after that initial contact that became the point of contention
between the prosecution and the defense. There were periods of time left unaccounted
for because Holtzclaw either turned off the computer in his car or didn’t radio in
updates. It was during these times, the prosecutors charged and the jury determined,
when Holtzclaw went from the football player turned caring cop to serial rapist. But the
defense, and even Holtzclaw’s most earnest defenders, his family and supporters, firmly
believe those assaults never took place. They consider those gaps inconsequential,
nothing more significant than a harried cop on the beat who sometimes forgot to make a
radio call or flip a switch, rather than the premeditated actions of someone preparing to
commit a sexual assault.

It’s at that intersection where life becomes most difficult for the man who now finds
himself trapped between his role as a police officer and the father that believes his son
couldn’t have committed these crimes. Eric Holtzclaw was on duty in Enid when he saw
his son’s image flash on a television screen. Following Jannie Ligon’s initial complaint
lodged to Oklahoma City police officials, Holtzclaw was placed on administrative duty
while an investigation was launched. From the beginning, Holtzclaw told his father
something wasn’t right and that he wasn’t guilty of what he was being accused of.

As the list of accusations of women claiming they had been sexually assaulted by his son
grew in volume, Eric Holtzclaw, who, understandably, generally trusts police and
prosecutors, found it increasingly difficult to remain objective. He first tried to remove
Daniel from the equation and to handle the facts of the case as he would under any other
investigation, but found that increasingly difficult. Meanwhile, his wife — troubled by
the growing list of criminal complaints against Holtzclaw — became enamored by each
news report and each online headline that began to paint her son as a serial rapist.

Eric Holtzclaw eventually pleaded with Kumiko to turn off the news, unable to wrap his
head around the portrait of his son reported by the media. In this case, he wasn’t a
police officer, he was a dad.

“This is the worst nightmare I would never wish on anyone,” the father said, the pain on
his face obvious. “It’s just been surreal. It’s like something like you would see in a movie.
It’s something, like, ‘This can’t be happening.’ It’s like everything bad that could have
happened is happening. You have no control over it.”
As the investigation continued and after his son was fired by the department in
Oklahoma City, Holtzclaw’s family and many others in Enid and Ypsilanti refused to
believe Holtzclaw was capable of the crimes he was charged with. Yet at a time when the
troubled behavior of former football players is often linked to brain trauma, Eric
Holtzclaw quickly dismisses the notion that his son’s involvement with the game could
have triggered a possible transformation into a sexual predator. To give credence to the
suggestion Holtzclaw could have “hit his head” and become a predatory sexual monster,
Eric Holtzclaw said, would be to acknowledge his son was capable of committing the
crimes he was sentenced to more than 250 years in prison for. This he will not and
cannot admit.

In 2014, a report on HBO’s Real Sports concluded that former players who exhibit
histories with domestic violence and bursts of rage can be linked to chronic trauma
encephalopathy (CTE), a brain disease caused from repeated blows to the head, but that
can only be diagnosed once a player has died.

“It’s just been surreal. It’s like something like you


would see in a movie. It’s something, like, ‘This
can’t be happening.’”Eric Holtzclaw
Scientists at Boston University determined, according to the HBO report, that lesions in
the anterior temporal lobe of many former players’ brains have been impacted by the
constant head trauma. In the report, Dr. Ann McKee, told HBO that when damaged,
that part of brain, which controls emotions and self-control, can lead to bouts of anger
and aggression. The potential connection in Holtzclaw’s case is intriguing, but hardly
certain, and without testing, there is no real way to determine if Holtzclaw is affected,
or, even if he is, if that may have played a role in his crimes. Researchers probing the
impact of CTE on behavior either chose not to comment on Holtzclaw’s case or were not
made available for interviews.

At least one national expert in sexual disorders believes that brain trauma may not have
been the chief culprit in this case. Dr. Fred Berlin, the director of the Sexual Behaviors
Consultation Unit at Johns Hopkins University, could see a scenario in which
Holtzclaw’s role as being a police officer who regularly came into contact with women in
lower socioeconomic environments may have played a role and facilitated his behavior.
In many cases, Berlin said, when conduct like Holtzclaw’s becomes difficult to explain
and understand, the diversion stems from something happening well below the surface.

“It’s not coming out of a person’s character or temperament or personality — the things
that are visible to us day in and day out,” Berlin said. “It comes out of the privacy of their
sexual make-up.”

During his interview with detectives, the nature of Holtzclaw’s sex life was introduced,
often very graphically. Holtzclaw, who said in the interview he has had girlfriends “here
and there” said when it came to sex, he “likes it all” and was having sex on average once
a day and described his sex drive as normal for someone his age. But Berlin said given
what on the surface appears to be a very natural appetite for sex may have gone off the
tracks if Holtzclaw exhibited abnormal sexual fantasies of being in control of or coercing
women, which followed a pattern of behavior in most of the complaints against him.

It’s not coming out of a person’s character or


temperament or personality … it comes out of the
privacy of their sexual make-up.Dr. Fred Berlin
If that was true, Berlin surmised, it may be possible that some type of disorder may have
been in play during the six-month period when the crimes took place in 2013 and 2014
when, without the potential of an NFL career to suppress his behavior, Holtzclaw
seemingly became a completely different person. Holtzclaw’s father disagrees,
questioning how it would be possible for his son to “turn it on and off” and then go
home to a girlfriend once his daily shift had ended. Berlin said, however, that in many
cases, perpetrators have the ability to mask abnormal behavior.

“The hallmark of a sexual disorder is that people experience intense, recurring,


abnormal sexual fantasies and urges,” Berlin said. “… Any man is capable of raping, but
the average man doesn’t have intense, recurrent sexual fantasies and urges to about
doing so to the point where it may be a struggle for him on an ongoing basis to prevent
himself from acting.”

Any such disorder, coupled with the disappointment of watching a football career end
prematurely and the removal of that as motivation to suppress conduct he knew would
adversely affect that goal, could spell trouble. The addition of an extra dose of
aggression fueled by steroids or other performance enhancing drugs might cause even
more.

Without speaking directly of Holtzclaw, Rubick — the radio color analyst and former
Detroit Lion — said the reality of life without football hits everyone differently. While
some long-time players move on from the game on their own, those who don’t often
experience psychological wounds, leaving them unsure of what to do with their rest of
their lives. Numerous studies show that after retirement many athletes suffer from
depression and other psychological issues as they try to adjust.

“It’s tough,” Rubick said. “I’ve seen guys come out of the NFL and struggle. Some guys
will say, ‘I don’t know who I am. I’ve always been this guy — football star in high school,
football star in college, football star in the pros. Now, I’m just a guy.”

“My strengths would be that I’m a very strong physical


linebacker, with a great instincts and a nose for the ball.
Very coachable and able to handle adversity.”Daniel
Holtzclaw; Footballfutures.com

A fter leaving Eastern Michigan, many of Holtzclaw’s teammates found

themselves having only limited contact with the former linebacker. More often,
interactions took place through social media posts and through occasional group texts,
where players would reminisce about their playing careers at Eastern Michigan and bust
each other’s chops while, for the most part, getting on with their respective careers and
family lives.
But when news of Holtzclaw’s charges surfaced, teammates again became more
connected, stunned to learn about what taken place with Holtzclaw, looking to each
other for answers. Many were aware he had returned to Oklahoma to begin a career in
law enforcement. But when the criminal charges were levied against Holtzclaw, most
who became close with him at EMU were shocked that a respected teammate who
wasn’t known for trouble-making could have possibly become an abusive cop with a
penchant for using his power to satisfy himself sexually.

Former teammates and acquaintances of Holtzclaw noticed a variety of reactions from


the general public on social media after news of the charges broke. Some expressed
sympathy to the victims, some surprise, but many directed anger at Holtzclaw, believing
he was guilty based largely on the number of accusers who had brought allegations
against him.

In general, even after the verdict, reaction among teammates is split. Holtzclaw receives
the most support from those whose time at Eastern Michigan most overlapped with his
own, while those who played only a season or two with him tend to think the worst,
some characterizing him as “scum of the earth.” Yet few on either side care to go on the
record, and stuck somewhere in the middle are those who simply don’t know how to feel
due to the multi-layered nature of the case. For many, understanding has remained
elusive.

Not all were not so judgmental. As a former team captain, Tyler Jones, who not only
played quarterback, but also wide receiver and running back and earned a letter on the
varsity basketball team, tended to serve as a sounding board for former teammates, who
remain unsure of what to make of Holtzclaw’s criminal troubles. Jones typically chooses
to avoid hard news, but once he became aware of the headlines his former teammate
was making and the trouble that was brewing in Oklahoma, he couldn’t help but to be
drawn into the story.

Falling back on the lessons he had learned as a player, Jones’ natural instinct was to go
into protection mode, looking out for the best interest of someone he considered to be
family based on the time they had spent together as college teammates.

“It’s like when you’re a kid and your little brother does something,” Jones said.
“Regardless of what it is, you’re going to be defensive first before you kind of collect your
information and then make your judgment.

“So your first emotion is, ‘This can’t be true.’”


“It’s a little bit disturbing to anyone, especially to former teammates,” said Jones, who
has worked in the sports marketing department at Ohio State for three years now. “I
don’t think if you had polled anyone on that team, no one would expect something like
that of him or anyone — any human to be honest.”

Photo: Jeff Arnold


Similar sentiments are expressed back in Oklahoma. Former high school teammates like
Grey expressed shock when Holtzclaw’s case was sent to trial. Even though he didn’t see
Holtzclaw on a regular basis since the two had been roommates during Holtzclaw’s
academy training, Grey struggled to make sense of what was happening.

So does the rest of Enid. The topic of Holtzclaw’s conviction and subsequent sentencing
remains part of the regular conversation in town. At places like the Wee Too Restaurant,
the diner on the edge of town where framed paintings portraying cowboys and oil
derricks from a time gone by hang on dark wood paneling, the hometown football star’s
incarceration pops up from time to time as local residents struggle to reach a consensus.

“I’ve heard both sides,” said waitress and Enid native named Alyssa, whose name is
printed on her black Wee Too T-Shirt right above a diner slogan promoting the
“Garbage Omelet,” a favorite breakfast menu item. “I’ve heard people say that he’s
getting everything that’s coming to him and I’ve heard people say he’s absolutely
innocent.”

Despite the differing opinions, Eric Holtzclaw believes support still runs strong for his
son around Enid. Even considering the financial hardships that have come in pursuit of
Daniel Holtzclaw’s innocence and the difficulty Kumiko has found in dealing with the
constant stress, the local police lieutenant hasn’t wavered in the belief in his son —
regardless of current reality might otherwise suggest.

Holtzclaw’s father said that he has received letters supporting his son from as far away
as Australia has been brought some level of comfort to his family. He suggests that local
residents, for the most part, remember who Daniel Holtzclaw was during his years in
Enid and still consider him to be someone who comes from a good family and who
comes from a good town. So when he attempts to weigh that persona against the one
that made national headlines, Eric Holtzclaw remains firm that his son has been
wronged.

“This is just not something that would be Daniel,” Eric Holtzclaw said. “It’s not his
character to people who know him. It’s just not in his character to do the things they
have alleged him to do — three rapes in one night — it’s just crazy.”

“The first thing I can remember a coach telling me in


college was my linebacker coach, and what he said will
always stick with me because it goes with everything in
football and life in general: You paint your own
picture.”Daniel Holtzclaw; Footballfutures.com
Sixty minutes before he was found guilty on half of the 36 charges he had originally
faced, Daniel Holtzclaw sat in his fifth-floor holding cell with Brian Bates.

During the long period in which Bates had delved into the case against the former
Springlake Division patrol officer, Holtzclaw had asked the same question so frequently
that it became somewhat of a game between the former football star and the private
investigator.

“So,” Holtzclaw would begin. “Do you think I did it?”

In the defense’s view, there were too many


instances where the women who brought
complaints against Holtzclaw had changed their
story.
When he agreed to look into the prosecution’s case for Holtzclaw’s attorney, Bates
stipulated that if any time during his duration of his contract he became convinced of
Holtzclaw’s guilt, he would suspend his work on behalf of the defense. For the first
several months he worked on Adams’ behalf, Bates says he believed — at least 75 percent
of the time — that Holtzclaw was guilty, at least on some level, of the crimes he had had
been charged with. But as his investigation deepened, the bond between himself and the
young police officer strengthened. Each time Holtzclaw would inquire whether he
thought he was guilty, Bates, routinely answered the same way: “I’m giving you a 50-50
chance.”

In the defense’s view, there were too many instances where the women who brought
complaints against Holtzclaw had changed their story. There was little physical
evidence, and Holtzclaw had never wavered in his accounts and remained cooperative as
detectives questioned his role in the encounters with his victims. Holtzclaw’s sister,
Jennifer, currently maintains a website that outlines what the family believes to be the
shortcomings in the case against Daniel, justicefordanielholtzclaw.com, and Bates does
the same on his own website.

Like his lawyers and his father, who went to court on the day of his conviction fully
convinced he would take his son home, Holtzclaw held firm to the belief that the state
hadn’t met the burden of proof required by law needed to convict him and likely send
him to prison for the rest of his life. In fact, the same blind determination in the face of
overwhelming odds that led him to believe he would one day have a career in the NFL
now led him to believe that not only would he be acquitted, but, incredibly, that he
would be able to get his job back and return to work as if nothing had ever happened.

“He honestly still thought he could be a police officer,” Bates said. “I can’t tell you the
number of times I looked at him and said, ‘Daniel — you will never be a police officer
ever again. I don’t care if you are acquitted.’ “But in his mind, ‘I didn’t do anything
wrong — why don’t I get my job back?’ I told him. ‘You’ve been fired. You’re not getting
your job back. You’re not going to get a job with a police department anywhere ever
again.”

Six weeks after being convicted, on Jan. 21 — the day he was sentenced to 263 years in
prison — Holtzclaw appeared again in the same Oklahoma County district court where
he had rocked back and forth, his life in balance, tears in his eyes, and proclaimed his
innocence to a disbelieving jury. Gone now were the black suit and the light blue shirt
and striped tie he had worn with hopes of escaping a guilty verdict and returning to life
as he knew it.
Instead Holtzclaw, who had been placed on suicide watch in the days immediately
following his conviction, appeared in an orange prison jumpsuit — size 5X, large enough
to cover his still massive frame — designated for those deemed not fit to live among free
society. In the hours after Henderson denied his attorney’s request for a new trial,
Holtzclaw sat as, one after the other, three of his eight victims delivered a victim impact
statement that spoke to the pain that each had experienced after their encounter with
the young police officer. These are women, Franklin said, who, despite not being
publicly identified by name before the trial, were known in their neighborhoods as being
victims of Holtzclaw and who now, just want to put everything behind them — if they
can.

Ligons testified that all she wanted was her life back — the life she said was taken away
from her on the night Holtzclaw had pulled her over for erratic driving and had forced
her to perform an oral sex act.

Another victim, who was 17 at the time, spoke of how she was now afraid to leave her
house, telling the court that, “Every time I see the police, I don’t even know what to do.”

As each woman spoke, the former cop, whose demeanor in court to this point — apart
from his reaction to the conviction — had been controlled and stoic, reacted differently.
As the women spoke, Holtzclaw first stared, then glared at each one, visibly growing
angrier by the minute until the look on his face began to portray something approaching
rage, giving some observers a brief glimpse — perhaps — of the man and player so many
others do not admit to having ever before seen: not the caring cop, not the dedicated
teammate, not the dutiful son, but someone who was for so long in control suddenly
confronting his loss of power and freedom.

“This is a rapist who masqueraded as a law


enforcement agent.”David Prater
For those who believed in Holtzclaw’s innocence, his face displayed well-earned,
righteous anger. For those who agreed with the court and believed in Holtzclaw’s guilt, it
seemed the face of a man who fully capable of the crimes he was convicted of
committing.
Finally, before Henderson handled down the 263-year sentence — all 18 counts to run
consecutively, with no chance of parole — Prater, the county’s district attorney, made it
clear to the court that Holtzclaw had sometime, during his three years with the city’s
police department — wandered away from the career he had taken up after his dream of
playing in the NFL ended.

“I think people need to know this isn’t a law enforcement officer who committed these
crimes,” Prater said, according to Associated Press coverage of the sentencing hearing.
He then referred to Holtzclaw as a rapist, not a member of the police force, and added,
“If he was a true law enforcement officer, he would have held up his duty to protect
these citizens rather than victimize them.”

Moments later, Holtzclaw was led away, handcuffed and shackled, through the silent
corridors of the courthouse where his life had been taken away from him. Long
removed, not only by the miles, but by the years since his identity had been forged as a
hard-hitting linebacker, Daniel Holtzclaw had failed in his efforts to prove people
wrong. Unlike in the past, when his shortcomings only kept him from playing
professionally, these failures, as first defined by a prosecutor and then by a jury, carried
much heavier consequences.

Pending an improbable successful appeal, everything he had worked for was now gone,
likely never to be recovered, ever again. Recovery, if there is any, appears to be
something deserved only by the victims of a man whose belief in his innocence will
apparently be, like the way he once pursued his dream of playing in the NFL,
unrelenting, despite all evidence to the contrary.
| Longform | February 17, 2016

LONGFORM
THE GYMS OF HOLMES COUNTY

HIGHER AND HIGHER

BUFFALO AND W IDE RIGHT, 25 YEARS LATER

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Jeff Arnold is an award-winning, veteran journalist who covered Daniel Holtzclaw’s


entire Eastern Michigan football career for The Ann Arbor News. He now lives in
Chicago’s Lincoln Square neighborhood, where he is a regular contributor to the New
York Times, Associated Press and Chicago Sun-Times. Find him on
Twitter @JeffArnold_

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What the hell is this garbage

Isn’t SB Nation supposed to be dedicated to changing the conversation around sexual assault in sports?
Am I misremembering the whole "It’s On Us" campaign? It is ridiculous and irresponsible that in a society
that still routinely paints victims of rape and sexual assault as the ones who are to blame, that you would
publish an article that focuses so completely on how personally devastating it is for someone to be
convicted of numerous instances of rape AND to go out of their way to mention that many of his victims
were addicts or sex workers (a tangent that has literally 0% bearing on whether they deserve justice for
being violated by someone who is sworn to protect and serve).

The way we talk about these things matter. The fact that this article makes continued and emphatic
attempts to paint someone who was convicted on EIGHTEEN counts as an upstanding member of
society with one minor flaw is completely disgusting.

by derpthrone on Feb 17, 2016 | 10:25 AM reply rec flag