Everyone screws up once in a while, right? It’s just that some boo-boos are bigger (and harder to heal) than others. “Matt Sinclair admitted to a Champaign County jury Tuesday that pulling a gun on a friend on an interstate highway as a prank was ‘absolutely’ stupid. … ‘My intent was to joke around with a guy I shared my office with 15 hours a day. Stupidity doesn’t cut it,’ he said in answer to questions from his attorney, Jim Martinkus of Champaign.” What ballistic boner did Sinclair pull? . . .
Sinclair was the assistant director for player personnel relations for the University of Illinois football team that day. … He and other staff members, “euphoric” over a team win over Purdue University, were headed back to the UI campus from West Lafayette, Ind., about 3:45 p.m.
Sinclair was driving his pickup truck west in eastern Champaign County with two passengers while another football staffer, Justin Hood, was in a state sport utility vehicle with Sinclair’s office mate, Marcus Berry. The SUV was very near Sinclair’s pickup.
Given the Fighting Illini’s record of sustained futility, it’s probably understandable that Sinclair and his buds would be thrilled about actually beating their Big 10 rivals, the Boilermakers.
Sinclair said he reached into his center console to pull out a phone charger for his front-seat passenger and fellow staffer, Mike Bellamy. Sinclair’s unloaded .40-caliber semi-automatic handgun, which he said he carried for protection, was in the console. He put it on his lap to get to the charger.
According to Sinclair, Bellamy made a comment along the lines of: “How funny would it be for you to stick that out the window to scare Marcus?”
In the lexicon of stupid human gun tricks, “How funny would it be…” is probably right behind “Hey, watch this!” as a prelude to acts gun owners and Darwin Award nominees later come to regret. It’s alleged that Sinclair then pointed his mohaska at his friends driving in the SUV next to them. Just for giggles, of course. Only one problem: Sinclair and his friends weren’t the only people driving on I-74 that day.
Marin Lowder, 25, testified she was driving her cousin and mother west on I-74, headed for Waverly, Ill., when her mom, Lou Ann Lowder, 57, commented from the back seat that she should slow down because the two drivers looked like they were “going to do something odd.”
Within seconds, Marin Lowder saw the pickup driver extend his left hand and point the handgun at the SUV.
“I immediately thought ‘I’m going to witness a shooting’ and I slammed on my brakes,” she said.
Sinclair denies pointing his heater at anyone.
“I literally stuck it out a couple of seconds just to show them. I didn’t point it at anybody. I would never do that,” said the former UI and NFL linebacker who said he was raised around guns and understands gun safety. “It was just long enough to say ‘ha, ha.’ That was it.”
That was apparently enough. He’s currently on trial, charged with two felonies and a misdemeanor. We don’t know how that will turn out, but we do know that he’s richly deserving of our Irresponsible Gun Owner of the Day distinction. The only question is, if things don’t go his way, does the Champaign County jail have an orange jump suit big enough for the former NFLer?