“He is a good person who occasionally makes some bad decisions, but it’s away from the field,” said Mangino, who still talks regularly with Talib. “Some of his bad decisions are impulsive.
“Is he a guy that walks around with a chip on his shoulder? Absolutely not. Is he a guy that likes to be around people? Yes. Sometimes he just gets caught up in the moment.
“I think he’s remorseful for the mistakes he’s made. He knows that time is going to run out on him if he doesn’t get it right.”
There is no question that Talib got caught up in the moment when he arrived at Green Pond Drive on March 21, 2011. An afternoon filled with family drama built to that moment. Garland Police had responded earlier to a domestic disturbance call involving Billings and Talib’s sister Saran. Upon learning by phone that Billings had hit Saran, the police said, Talib became “upset over someone putting their hands on his sister” and drove to her house.
Shortly after he arrived at his sister’s Green Pond Drive home, the 6-foot-1-inch, 205-pound Talib confronted Billings in the front yard and tried to hit Billings with a 9mm handgun. Then Talib and Billings struggled for possession of the gun, police said.
Billings, 41, eventually gained control of the gun. At this point, Talib’s mother Okolo drove onto the scene and emerged from her car with a .380 handgun. Okolo and Aqib allegedly both fired at Billings with the second gun. Trying to escape the gunfire, Billings ran toward a wooded area across the street. Police recovered spent .380 shell casings from in front of two houses.
“It was very fortunate no one was killed and no one was hurt seriously,” said Garland Police spokesman Joe Harn. “There wasn’t a great deal of distance from one person to the other that was shooting.”
Harn added that Aqib was cooperative during the investigation. The cornerback turned himself in once authorities issued an arrest warrant, though the warrant states that Aqib and Okolo both fled the scene and “lied to Detective multiple times.” When Okolo returned to the scene after changing clothes, she initially told officers that Aqib was in Florida.
Perhaps Okolo, 59, was simply a mother protecting her youngest son. Even so, Okolo and her troubled past appear to have been bad influences on Aqib. Living in Cleveland under the name Donna Henry, Okolo was arrested on May 6, 1996, and indicted for felony assault for attacking another woman with a knife. She was sentenced to two to 10 years at the Ohio Reformatory for Women in Marysville.
After serving almost eight months, she was released in May 1997 and placed on probation. Aqib, who was born in Cleveland and later moved to Texas for middle school, was 11 years old at the time.
In the past, Talib’s high school coach Jim Ledford has talked about his former star player’s family. The coach noted that Talib’s loyalty to his mother can be problematic. Strong family ties clearly created a dangerous situation for Talib and his mother in March 2011. It doesn’t help that the smiling, friendly personality Talib display in the Patriots locker room can easily turn into the stubborn, hot-tempered personality evident in his many transgressions.
Approached outside her home on Green Pond Drive, Saran Talib, 44, declined to comment about her brother. She also said her mother wouldn’t talk. When Aqib’s father, Theodore Henry, was reached by phone at a Tampa number, he did not answer any questions.
It seems those closest to Aqib want to move forward, too. And those in regular contact with Aqib have advised him to stay focused on football.
“In my conversation with him a week ago, he sounded like the worst was behind him,” said Mangino. “I told him this is an opportunity of a lifetime with the Patriots. I told him, when you get up there, all you care about is football. Lay low and relax when you’re away from football.
“That was my advice. He agreed.”
Mangino added that the Patriots provide the kind of structure and discipline that Talib needs and that the cornerback “does well in an environment that is very organized.”
Meanwhile, the Patriots see a good fit with Talib on the field. The organization trusts Belichick to find players ready to make the most of a second or third or fourth chance. If any problems surface off the field, he won’t stay on the roster long.
“I think veteran players will tell him what it means to be a Patriot,” said team president Jonathan Kraft on 98.5 The Sports Hub. “My guess is he’ll listen and respect that. Continued...