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Scottie Scheffler, charged with assault after officer dragged near fatal crash, tees off at PGA Championship

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) — Masters champion Scottie Scheffler was arrested Friday morning on his way to the PGA Championship, with stunning images showing him handcuffed as he was taken to jail for not following police orders during a pedestrian fatality investigation.

In a span of four hours, the top-ranked golfer in the world was arrested wearing gym shorts and a T-shirt, dressed in an orange jail shirt for his mug shot, returned to Valhalla Golf Club in golf clothes and made his 10:08 a.m. second-round tee time.

Louisville Metro Police Department said Scheffler was booked on four charges, including second-degree assault of a police officer after his vehicle dragged an officer to the ground.

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Scheffler said the incident was a “big misunderstanding.”

“This morning, I was proceeding as directed by police officers,” he said in a statement released as he was warming up on the range. “It was a very chaotic situation, understandably so considering the tragic accident that had occurred earlier, and there was a big misunderstanding of what I thought I was being asked to do.

“I never intended to disregard any of the instructions,” he said. “I’m hopeful to put this to the side and focus on golf today. Of course, all of us involved in the tournament express our deepest sympathies to the family of the man who passed away in the earlier accident this morning. It truly puts everything in perspective.”

His attorney, Steve Romines in Louisville, also described it as a misunderstanding and told The Associated Press, “We will litigate the case as it goes.”

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Louisville mayor Craig Greenberg said tournament vendor John Mills was the pedestrian killed and offered sympathies to his family. Greenberg also said the incident involving Scheffler and LMPD was “unfortunate” and that the police department was investigating.

Traffic was backed up for about a mile in both directions on the only road that leads to Valhalla in the morning darkness with light rain, with dozens of police vehicles flashing red-and-blue lights near the entrance.

Police said a pedestrian had been struck by a bus while crossing the road in a lane that was dedicated to tournament traffic and was pronounced dead at the scene about 5:09 a.m.

ESPN reporter Jeff Darlington said Scheffler, the No. 1 player in the world who was to start the second round at 8:48 a.m., drove past a police officer a little after 6 a.m. in his SUV with markings on the door indicating it was a PGA Championship vehicle.

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The officer screamed at him to stop and then grabbed onto the car until Scheffler stopped about 10 yards later, Darlington said. The officer, identified in the arrest report as Det. Gillis, was dragged “to the ground” and suffered “pain, swelling, and abrasions to his left wrist” after the car “accelerated forward,” according to Louisville police.

Scheffler was booked at 7:28 a.m. — about 2 1/2 hours before his updated tee time after the second round was delayed because of the fatality. In addition to the assault charge, he was booked on charges of third-degree criminal mischief, reckless driving and disregarding traffic signals from an officer directing traffic.

“The main thing is he was proceeding exactly as he was directed in a marked vehicle with credentials,” Romines said. “He didn’t do anything intentionally wrong.”

The officer was dressed in a high visibility reflective jacket when he stopped Scheffler’s car to give instructions, the arrest sheet said. Gillis was taken to the hospital for his injuries.

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Darlington watched it unfold. He said police pulled Scheffler out of the car, pushed him up against the car and immediately placed him in handcuffs.

“Scheffler was then walked over to the police car, placed in the back, in handcuffs, very stunned about what was happening, looked toward me as he was in those handcuffs and said, ‘Please help me,’” Darlington said. “He very clearly did not know what was happening in the situation. It moved very quickly, very rapidly, very aggressively.”

Mitchell told Louisville radio station WHAS the man was crossing Shelbyville Road about 5 a.m. and the bus didn’t see him. Mitchell said the man was pronounced dead on the scene.

Scheffler was released by police and returned to the course at 9:12 a.m. He made his way to the practice area around 9:30 a.m. and was welcomed by fans — one shouted “free Scottie!”

Scheffler seemed like his normal, relaxed self, sharing a few laughs on the driving range. Then he went out and made a birdie on his first hole of the day after sticking his approach shot to three feet.

With cars backed up in the morning darkness, other PGA-marked vehicles tried to move slowly toward the entrance. Traffic finally began to move gradually a little before 7 a.m.

It was a surreal start to what already has been a wild week of weather — the Masters champion and top-ranked player in the world, dressed in workout clothes with his hands in cuffs behind his back amid flashing flights.

Darlington said police were not sure who Scheffler was. He said an officer asked him to leave and when he identified himself being with the media, he was told, “There’s nothing you can do. He’s going to jail.”

Darlington said another police officer later approached with a notepad and asked if he knew the name of the person they put in handcuffs.

Scheffler is coming off four victories in his last five tournaments, including his second Masters title. He was home in Dallas the last three weeks waiting on the birth of his first child, a son that was born May 8.

Scheffler opened with a 4-under 67 and was five shots out of the lead as he tries to become only the fifth player since 1960 to win the first two majors of the year.

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