One of the darkest weeks in NFL history took another disturbing twist Friday when a warrant was issued in Texas for the arrest of Adrian Peterson, the face of the Vikings, over his treatment of one of his children.
Peterson faces an indictment accusing him of reckless or negligent injury to a child stemming from Peterson’s decision earlier this year to discipline his 4-year-old son by beating him with a ‘‘switch.’’
The Vikings responded by quickly deactivating Peterson for Sunday’s home opener against New England at TCF Bank Stadium. Peterson surrendered to Houston police early Saturday morning, was booked and released. He flew back to Minnesota immediately, his lawyer said.
The warrant came four days after the Baltimore Ravens released, and the league indefinitely suspended, running back Ray Rice following the release of video showing Rice knocking out his then-fiancée in an elevator. The controversy ignited national debate about domestic violence and led to calls for the ouster of NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell over the league’s failure to act forcefully against Rice earlier this year.
On Friday, as the NFL hoped to see the focus return to this weekend’s games, the indictment against the Vikings’ star running back emerged.
Sources told the Star Tribune that the boy lives with his mother in Minnesota but was on a visit to Texas several months ago when Peterson chose to discipline him with the switch — a tree branch stripped of its leaves and twigs. When the boy returned to Minnesota, a source confirmed, he was taken to a doctor’s appointment in the Twin Cities. Seeing the child’s injuries, the doctor contacted Minnesota authorities, who alerted Houston police. The case eventually was referred to the Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office, which has jurisdiction over the area where Peterson maintains a home, and then to a grand jury.
Peterson was taken into custody about 1 a.m. Saturday in Montgomery County, Texas, and was released on $15,000 bond, according to a sheriff's office spokesman, Lt. Brady Fitzgerald. Houston television station KHOU reported that Peterson was let in through a side entrance at the jail and left the same way after posting bond.
The six-time Pro Bowl player and his wife, Ashley, were married in July and have at least one son, who is not the injured boy. Peterson has not revealed publicly how many children he has. One of his acknowledged children died at the hands of another man in South Dakota last year. Peterson didn’t have a relationship with that child.
The Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office have not released details of the charges against Peterson, but the police reports were seen by Nick Wright, a reporter for radio station 610AM in Houston. He provided details obtained from the reports, which said Peterson beat his son with a tree branch as a form of punishment for pushing another of his sons off a motorbike video game. The 4-year-old suffered injuries to his legs, buttocks, back and scrotum.
Peterson reportedly expressed regret in an interview with Houston police that his son did not cry because that would have let him know that he was hurting the boy more than he intended, Wright reported. The radio station added, according to police reports, that Peterson’s son told authorities that his father had pulled his pants down and put leaves in his mouth when hitting him.
The boy also told authorities that “Daddy Peterson hit me on my face” and expressed concern that Peterson would punch him in the face if he reported what happened, the station reported. The child also reportedly told his mother that Peterson “likes belts and switches” and “has a whooping room.”
Peterson’s attorney, Rusty Hardin, issued a statement acknowledging the indictment.
“The charged conduct involves using a switch to spank his son,’’ Hardin said. “This indictment follows Adrian’s full cooperation with authorities who have been looking into this matter. Adrian is a loving father who used his judgment as a parent to discipline his son. He used the same kind of discipline with his child that he experienced as a child growing up in east Texas.
“Adrian has never hidden from what happened. He has cooperated fully with authorities and voluntarily testified before the grand jury for several hours. Adrian will address the charges with the same respect and responsiveness he has brought to this inquiry from its beginning. It is important to remember that Adrian never intended to harm his son and deeply regrets the unintentional injury,” the statement said.
Peterson was at the Vikings’ practice Friday morning and in the locker room at Winter Park in the afternoon before the news broke. He posted the following comment to his Twitter account in the hours before the indictment became public: “People understand that if you are on God’s course and suppose (sic) to have that position and man decides to remove you know that God will remove everyone to place you rightfully! You matter! Its (sic) your season! Weapons may form but won’t prosper! God has you covered don’t stress or worry!”
At Peterson’s Eden Prairie home Friday evening, his uncle, Chris Peterson, answered the door and said the family was declining comment.
The Associated Press and staff writers Joy Powell and Master Tesfatsion contributed to this report.