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Police: Justice Stopped in High-Crime Area Before Reporting to Camp

February 22, 1996

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. (AP) _ Atlanta Braves outfielder David Justice, who hit the World Series-winning homer last season, was stopped by police in a high-crime area of neighboring Riviera Beach, an officer said today.

Justice said he was simply driving around when he was pulled over Sunday night.

``If I did something wrong, you think I would be sitting right here?″ Justice said in the Braves’ lockerroom before today’s workout at spring training. ``Someone just wanted to get on TV and talk.″

Acting police Lt. David Torres said Justice was pulled over after an officer spotted someone outside the player’s car about 11:35 p.m. Sunday, the day before position players reported to West Palm Beach.

``There was an unknown black male leaning into his vehicle,″ Torres said. ``When the officer pulled up, the black male had fled. Justice was later stopped, and the officer conducting the investigation asked what he was doing. It appeared to be suspicious. That’s a high-crime area.″

No charges were filed and the other person was never found, police said.

``After talking to Justice, the officer gave him advice that it was a high-crime area and he was on his way,″ Torres said.

Justice said he was driving around the area after arriving Sunday, and he stopped his car briefly to get his bearings. He denied talking to anyone when he stopped, saying his windows were rolled up.

``It’s easy to go two blocks and be in what’s considered a bad neighborhood,″ Justice said. ``I stopped to think about where I was going next. ... I had just gotten into town and I was driving around West Palm, you know what I mean? I didn’t feel like going and sitting in my room.″

According to Torres, the Braves player was driving a new Lexus when the officer noticed him parked with his lights off. He said Justice flipped on his lights and drove away as police approached, but he was stopped a short time later.

The area is a known haven for drug dealers and prostitutes, Torres said, and the officer who stopped Justice spotted cash in the passenger’s seat.

``He was detained and he was released,″ Torres said. ``There are no plans to charge him.″

Justice said he didn’t notice the police at first but pulled over willingly when a patrol car began following him. He said the money was in a console between his two front seats and the officer didn’t see it until he opened the console to retrieve his license. He said he signed an autograph for one of three other officers who drove up.

Justice said the incident was frightening, and he worried that it would unfairly damage his reputation.

``What we have is a non-story,″ he said. ``The police are going to go home and sleep OK. Their life goes on. Now me, I got people in Atlanta calling on talk shows believing something like this. Usually, I’m not affected by what people say. But this hurts me to the core. It’s not fair.″

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