Bucs player held in woman's assault

Published March 31, 2007

TAMPA - Investigators say a Tampa Bay Buccaneers player broke into a pregnant woman's home, hit her in the face and pushed her into a wall in a dispute over whether he is the baby's father.

Lionel Theron Gates, 25, who was on the Bucs' practice squad last season and remains under contract, was arrested at 12:30 a.m. Friday on charges of burglary of an occupied dwelling, battery on a pregnant woman and criminal mischief, jail records show.

He was released Friday night from the Hillsborough County jail on $34,500 bail, with the restrictions that he have no contact with the victim and can no longer reside in the same apartment complex where she lives.

At 11 p.m. Thursday, Gates kicked in the front door of Peggie Lavender's apartment just north of Gunn Highway near the Veterans Expressway, deputies say.

He broke a big-screen television, another television, an interior door, a bedroom door and made a hole in the bedroom wall, deputies say.

The specifics of the argument were not made public.

Lavender, 28, was not hospitalized, said sheriff's spokeswoman Debbie Carter.

Gates, a 2005 seventh-round draft choice for the Buffalo Bills, was on the Bucs' practice squad last season but did not appear in games. He was re-signed to a one-year contract after last season and is expected to enter training camp as one of several players vying for one of three running back spots.

The Jacksonville native played college ball at Louisville, where he led the Cardinals in rushing in 2003 with 817 yards and scored nine touchdowns in 2004.

The Bucs took no immediate action regarding Gates.

"Charges such as those facing Lionel Gates are taken seriously by the Buccaneers organization," general manager Bruce Allen said in a statement. "We plan to meet with Lionel as soon as possible after which we will deal with this matter appropriately."

Staff writer Stephen Holder contributed to this report. Abbie VanSickle can be reached at 226-3373 or vansickle@sptimes.com.