Tony Thomas of WSB-TV Atlanta was the first to report that Gwinnett County Police have charged Atlanta Falcons linebacker Prince Shembo with animal cruelty charges for allegedly attacking and killing his girlfriend’s dog. According to information obtained by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, the then-girlfriend of Shembo, Denicia Williams, contacted police on April 19 about him attacking her Yorkshire Terrier named Dior. The police finally concluded their investigation and brought formal charges today.
Williams met up with Shembo on April 15 and left him and Dior unattended. Upon her return, Dior was unresponsive and later taken to a vet, where he expired of blunt force trauma. Per the police report, Williams indicated that Shembo admitted to kicking the dog, prompting a breakup between the two. Also, Shembo also stated that the seriousness of his offense might prompt him to flee the country.
Shembo was drafted by the Falcons in the fourth round of the 2014 NFL Draft out of Notre Dame. This is not Shembo’s first run-in with the law, after being accused of sexual assault by a female student at St. Mary’s College during his sophomore year of college. No charges were filed against Shembo, and the victim committed suicide 10 days after the alleged incident. There were accusations at the time that authorities at Notre Dame bungled the investigation.
Shembo showed promise during his rookie season in Atlanta while moving to a brand new position at inside linebacker after playing outside linebacker and defensive end in college. Shembo appeared in all 16 games for the Falcons last year, logging three starts. He finished the year with 57 tackles and three stops on special teams.
This is notably not the first time a Falcons player has been accused of animal cruelty. Quarterback Michael Vick infamously was sentenced to 23 months in federal prison for his involvement in a dogfighting ring in 2007. But Shembo’s case is eerily similar to that involving defensive tackle Jonathan Babineaux, which also occurred in 2007. Babineaux was suspected of causing the death of his girlfriend’s dog, but charges were eventually dropped due to a lack of conclusive evidence.
The Falcons released a statement following their decision to waive Shembo:
“We are aware of the charges that have been filed against Prince Shembo. We are extremely disappointed that one of our players is involved in something like this. Accordingly, we have decided to waive Prince Shembo.”