Updated April 10, 2022 - 7:25 pm
At least three people told police that then-Raiders cornerback Damon Arnette was a passenger in an SUV that crashed and injured a woman near the team’s practice site, according to recently obtained body camera footage.
But Henderson police doubted the accounts early on after witnesses told them they saw Arnette switch seats with another man before emergency crews arrived on Oct. 14, 2020.
Still, then-Raiders wide receiver Henry Ruggs’ younger brother, Kevontae’ Ruggs, who twice showed up at the scene, maintained that Arnette was not driving the Ford Explorer and tried to give an officer a team jersey.
Arnette later told police that the younger Ruggs picked him up before officers arrived at the crash site and drove him to the nearby Raiders facility, as Arnette was running late for team meetings.
After Ruggs returned to the scene, he spoke to the officer who took the lead of the investigation, telling him that he could be the point person in the probe.
“Just for the purposes right here,” Ruggs, who did not witness the wreck, said in the video. “Can you please not put the fact that he was in an accident in the paperwork?”
Later, he offered the lead investigating officer a jersey.
“I promise you, I’ll get you the jersey today,” Ruggs could be heard telling the officer, who declined.
“Not as in — you know what I’m saying — like a bribe right here or nothing like that,” Ruggs said. “A chance to give.”
A little over a year later, Henry Ruggs slammed his Corvette into a compact SUV, killing Tina Tintor 23, and her golden retriever, Max, according to Las Vegas police.
‘Too much to lose’
Jonathon Washington, who was riding with Arnette in October 2020, initially took the blame for the Henderson crash, footage showed.
Hours after the wreck, Arnette admitted in a police interview from Raiders headquarters that he had been behind the wheel and said that he had not asked Washington, whom he described as his “brother,” to lie.
“He was just trying to look out for me,” Arnette said in the video, noting that he had told his friend to give police his information, as he had done during a previous crash on a Las Vegas highway.
If Arnette had been impaired at the time of his crash, it likely would have been difficult to prove since police did not speak to him until more than four hours later.
In fact, just 23 minutes into the investigation, the lead officer told another that “we’re losing big time time on 409,” which is the police code for drunken driving, according to the footage.
“Damon, we don’t care at this point,” the lead investigator later asked. “But were you DUI?”
Arnette answered: “No, sir.”
A second officer could be heard telling him: “You have too much to lose.”
The two interviewing officers told Arnette that his friends, including a woman who claimed she had seen the crash and that Arnette was not the driver, had complicated a seemingly minor crash investigation.
Arnette told the officers that he had gone to the injured woman after the crash, held her hand, yanked the door open and offered to go on a walk with her.
“You did a good thing,” the lead investigator told Arnette. That “changes things quite a bit. It’s just a little traffic ticket.”
Arnette replied: “I appreciate it.”
“That’s one thing about me,” Arnette said. “I got you, and one thing about me, I keep it 100 at all time.
“Everything I just told you, that’s what happened, bro,” he added.
Arnette was instead cited with failure to stay at the scene of a crash and improper lane change, both misdemeanors, Henderson Municipal Court records show. The case was closed in September after Arnette pleaded guilty and paid a $1,140 fine, records show.
“Let Jonathon know what could’ve happened,” the lead officer told Arnette before the officers bumped fists with the NFL player and walked out.
Asked whether Arnette should have been tested for impairment, a Henderson spokesperson wrote recently that the department follows Nevada law “when investigating any incident,” highlighting the parts in the law that state that the person was not “in actual physical control of a vehicle” and the person is not “in the driver’s seat of the vehicle.”
The injured woman, Yaneth Casique, sued Arnette on Oct. 5, 2021, about a month before Henry Ruggs was accused of driving upward of 156 mph in the crash that killed Tintor on Rainbow Boulevard and Spring Valley Parkway.
Meanwhile, the lawsuit against Arnette is ongoing.
“The victim’s already done with medical treatment” but has had “no contact from Arnette, or any intent from him to make her whole or bring this to a resolution,” said Juan Gallo, a senior case manager for the Tingey Injury Law Firm representing Casique.
Attorney Bruce Kelley, who represents Arnette in the lawsuit, declined to comment, citing a “policy of not commenting on matters in litigation.”
Attorneys representing the Raiders and Silver State Ford, who also were named in Casique’s lawsuit, could not immediately be reached for comment.