A former NFL player who made three trips to the Super Bowl suffered defeat in a Tarrant County courtroom for assaulting a 61-year-old man outside a Target store in 2014.
A Tarrant County civil jury last week ordered Darrien Gordon, 46, to pay David Redelsperger $725,000 for the pain, mental anguish and physical impairment the retired pharmacist has suffered as a result of the assault.
Redelsperger alleged the attack was unprovoked and preceded by the racial rant, “I hate white people like you. I hope you all die.”
Gordon, who did not immediately return a phone message, was a cornerback and punt returner who played with five teams over his 10-year professional career, including the Raiders, Packers, Falcons and Chargers. He won two Super Bowl rings in back-to-back seasons with the Denver Broncos.
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His attorney, Brandon Weaver, was out of town Monday and a representative from his law office declined to comment.
“This wasn’t about black and white as much as it was about a bully who was picking on somebody who was much weaker,” said Brian Butcher, Redelsperger’s attorney.
The assault occurred Jan. 22, 2014, as Redelsperger arrived at the Target at 8532 Davis Blvd. in North Richland Hills to pick up an arthritis prescription.
Surveillance video shows Gordon, who had also just arrived, looking back twice at Redelsperger as the man walked to the store’s entrance.
Gordon stopped on a grassy island and turned around, as if waiting for Redelsperger.
Redelsperger said he noticed the well-dressed, well-groomed Gordon looking back at him as he made his way toward the store.
“I didn’t think a whole lot of it,” Redelsperger told the Star-Telegram in an interview. “I thought he wanted to engage in conversation. I thought maybe something’s wrong. Maybe my tire is flat or something.”
But as he drew closer, Redelsperger said he noticed Gordon was glaring at him in a “menacing, threatening manner.” He said he asked Gordon politely if there was a problem and “that’s when he came out with his racial statement.”
‘He tried to kill me’
A deposition obtained by the Star-Telegram details what Redelsperger says happened next:
Surprised and frightened, Redelsperger responded to the likes of, “What are you, some kind of jerk?” as he moved quickly toward to the store to get away.
“I never stopped because I thought that there’s something wrong with this person. I need to get to safety,” he said in the deposition.
But Redelsperger said Gordon followed, ambushed and sucker-punched him in the face. The punch occurred off camera but Gordon can be seen on the video shoving Redelsperger, then throwing him to the ground.
“... He tried to kill me by pushing me into an on(coming) lane of traffic and choking me,” Redelsperger said in his deposition.
Redelsperger said Monday that cars were sounding their alarms and people were shouting to try to stop the attack. As Gordon ran away, Redelsperger can be seen running after him.
“I wanted to make sure I got his tag number from his car so I could report it to police,” Redelsperger said.
He did one better, tearing the paper license tag from Gordon’s vehicle before he fled.
Redelsperger, now 65, required stitches to close two lacerations around his eyebrow and suffered swelling to his eye, throat and larynx.
Butcher called it “revolting” that Gordon would attack Redelsperger, given their disparity in ages and physical strength.
“Obviously (Gordon) competed against the strongest and fastest athletes in the world. He tackled people like Emmitt Smith for a living for a decade,” Butcher said.
“Then he tackled this 60-something-year-old retired guy who had never been in a fight in his life. Who wasn’t wearing a helmet. Who wasn’t wearing shoulder pads and wasn’t playing on a grass surface and just threw him down on the asphalt.”
Gordon played high school football in Shawnee, Okla., before playing collegiately at Stanford.
After being drafted in the first round of the NFL draft in 1993 he had a solid career, highlighted by two interceptions in Super Bowl XXXII when Denver beat Atlanta 34-19.
His 3,601 punt return yards rank fourth in NFL history and he holds numerous individual records for the Broncos.
He retired after the 2002 season and lives in Southlake.
‘A childhood staring contest’
In his own deposition, Gordon acknowledged telling Redelsperger, “White people like you are my problem” but said the issue had nothing to do with race.
He accused Redelsperger of starting the conflict by glaring at him in the parking lot, prompting Gordon to glare back.
“It was like a childhood staring contest,” Gordon said in the deposition.
He claimed Redelsperger then walked directly toward him, getting in his personal space, within a few inches of touching him.
“And he said in a very harsh, paternalistic tone, ‘What’s your problem,’ ” Gordon said in the deposition. “I said that it was people like him that was my problem. And it escalated from there.”
Gordon said he didn’t know what prompted him to turn around to look at Redelsperger, suggesting it was just his intuition. He acknowledged in his deposition that Redelsperger said nothing that would make him turn around.
“I just turned around on my own,” Gordon said. “... If I had kept walking, then we wouldn’t be here right now.”
Gordon claimed after the initial exchange of words, the two men were continuing to say things to each other as they headed to the store.
In a state of adrenaline, Gordon said what followed next seemed surreal as he grabbed the victim.
“When is the last time you’ve ever been in any kind of altercation, you know, that’s not on the football field, right?” Gordon said. “So It was almost like it wasn’t happening ... And I grabbed him and I grabbed him again and, you know, put him on the ground.”
Gordon said he doesn’t recall punching the man, only grabbing him.
He said he fled the scene to avoid making an already bad situation worse and said he believed the altercation was a mutual one.
“I don’t think that he’s blameless, you know, because there are people who are harmed who are, you know, victims without any cause or circumstance and I definitely don’t see it that way with Mr. Redelsperger,” Gordon said in the deposition.
‘Sorry the situation happened’
Redelsperger said he sued Gordon because he was upset over the light sentence he received through the criminal justice system. He said he believed Gordon was being protected because of his career and that charges were only filed against Gordon nine months after the assault because he pressured officials.
Court records show Gordon pleaded guilty in August 2015 to assault with bodily injury, a Class A misdemeanor, in exchange for 18 months of deferred adjudication probation.
“He never had to check in with the probation officer,” Butcher said. “He took an anger management class that lasted a couple of hours one day. He didn’t even do 30 minutes of jail time.”
The case was dismissed in February after Gordon successfully completed his probation, meaning a conviction won’t show up on his record.
Butcher thought Gordon’s evident lack of remorse was a big factor in the jury’s deliberations.
“I gave him an opportunity to apologize during trial, and he refused,” Butcher said. “He only said that he was sorry that the situation happened.”
Redelsperger said he thinks the attack was racially motivated. While thankful for the civil jury’s verdict, he said the traumatic ordeal has left him disappointed in the criminal justice system.
“The whole justice system to me, is very upsetting,” he said. “This is my first experience. I respected the law, (thought) they’re going to back me up and take care of me. It was more about him, protecting his rights.”