Trevor Bates overcame a horrible start in life to reach the pinnacle of his sport.

He was abused by a father who is now serving life in prison for the rape and murder of a neighbor. Raised by a single mother, Bates found purpose at a young age in athletics. His strength and speed made him a standout on the football field, but it was his work ethic that led him from Westbrook High School to the University of Maine, and then to being selected in the NFL draft in 2016.

Bates, 25, played in nine games last fall for the Detroit Lions, mostly on kickoffs and punt returns. He also had started to become a part of the community there, helping to rebuild relationships between incarcerated parents and their children, a dynamic he lived as a child.

But a series of events last weekend have upended his life.

He was arrested in New York after police say he refused to pay a $32 cab fare and wound up being charged with assaulting a police officer, as well as resisting arrest, obstructing government administration and theft of services. He has been at a hospital undergoing psychiatric evaluation for the past week.

The full details of the alleged assault on police Sgt. James O’Brien, or the events that preceded it, have not been released, but family members, friends and teammates of Bates said the behavior is entirely out of character. They called him a gentle man, a respectful man, a man grounded in faith.

Antonio Perez, a friend from Michigan, said he hates seeing how Bates has been portrayed in the media, including by a New York police union, which called him a “wild animal.”

“There’s got to be more to this story,” Perez said.

Marqus Bates, Trevor’s half brother, also cautioned people against “another black athlete behaving badly” narrative.

“There had to be a misunderstanding,” said Marqus, a professional boxer in Massachusetts. “My brother is a very respectful, outstanding young man.”

Jack Cosgrove, the football coach who recruited Bates to play at UMaine and has kept in touch with him, said the incident did not sound like the Trevor he knows.

“He’s the success story we all want and not many get to have,” Cosgrove said.

Bates has no criminal history, but if convicted he could face up to seven years in prison.

Even if he isn’t, his football career and future could be in jeopardy.

A DIFFICULT UPBRINGING; HIS FATHER INCARCERATED

Tammy Dickson

Bates’ mother, Christy Lynn Ducharme, was five months pregnant when she married his father, Foster Donnelle Bates, in May 1993.

Trevor came into the world in August.

Six months later, a woman was murdered in the same South Portland apartment complex where the Bates family lived. Tammy Dickson was 22, a single mother. She was found bound and gagged inside her apartment, her 18-month-old son sleeping in a crib in another room.

Dickson’s body wasn’t found until three days after her death. Her son was hungry and dehydrated but unharmed.

Foster Bates was a suspect from the beginning, but initially there wasn’t enough evidence tying him to the murder scene.

After Dickson’s killing, Bates fled Maine with his wife and young son for Taunton, Massachusetts. While he was under investigation in Maine, Bates got into more trouble.

He was charged in 1996 with two counts of having sex with underage girls. He was convicted and sentenced in 1997 to three years in prison, followed by five years of probation.

While her husband was in prison, Christy Bates filed for divorce. It was granted in early 1998. She got custody of Trevor.

But Christy still feared her ex-husband. In 1999, she filed a protection from abuse order against Bates. She said he abused her, and their son, throughout the marriage.

“I was dragged from my vehicle by my neck and severely and physically abused,” she would later say in court, describing an incident in 1996.

A year before, she needed stitches after Bates kicked in the shower door while she and her son were behind it, she said. She also cited instances of him slapping Trevor so hard it left a handprint on the child’s face for three to four days.

Christy Bates did not respond to multiple requests for comment on this story.

Foster Bates

In 2001, Foster Bates was indicted for the rape and murder of Tammy Dickson, with the help of refined testing for DNA evidence.

Foster Bates has insisted authorities charged the wrong person. He testified at the trial that he had had an affair with Dickson – reversing earlier statements that he had never had sex with her – but said he didn’t kill her. Bates, who is black, also suggested that the all-white jury was biased in favor of a white victim.

He was convicted and sentenced to life in prison. He also received a concurrent sentence of 30 years for raping Dickson.

Trevor Bates was 9 years old at the time.

Foster Bates has appealed his conviction multiple times, unsuccessfully.

He declined a request to be interviewed in prison last week.

FORMER COACHES HAVE NOTHING BUT PRAISE

By all accounts, Trevor and his mother were close, although those who know him said he didn’t talk much about his home life or his past.

“Trevor’s mom is an amazing woman,” said his brother, Marqus. “She raised him the right way.” Marqus Bates, who is seven years older than Trevor, spent time in jail too, for drug dealing.

Trevor attended Westbrook schools and excelled in sports. Baseball was his first love, but by high school he had grown considerably and spent hours in the weight room turning baby fat into muscle. Football started to make more sense.

Jeff Guerette, his football coach at Westbrook, said Bates was driven but also generous with his time. As a high school senior, he volunteered as a Big Brother to a third-grader.

“It’s a great chance to make an impact on a youngster,” Bates said in a 2011 Press Herald story.

Since he left Westbrook, Bates has made it a point to come back and check in.

“He was always great to swing by the weight room and talk to our kids,” said Guerette.

Cosgrove, the former UMaine head football coach, said he was aware of Bates’ upbringing when he recruited him but it didn’t concern him.

“I’m more impressed with young people who have overcome adversity,” he said. “It would be easy for them to be traveling the same path that they’re seeing their family travel. And they chose not to. They chose to be dedicated to a sport and to be good enough in the classroom that they would be offered scholarship money.”

In a 2015 interview with the Bangor Daily News while he was a senior at UMaine, Bates spoke of getting into trouble for drinking – both while in high school and then in college. He said an incident at UMaine caused him to make a change.

“It was a wakeup call,” he told the newspaper. “I really did a one-eighty after that and I’m thankful for what happened because it helped shape me into the man I am now.”

Cosgrove said he couldn’t recall any disciplinary issues involving Bates.

When Bates joined the team as a freshman, he wasn’t expected to contribute immediately, but he quickly became a starting defensive end. By the following year, he earned a full scholarship, and the next year he was selected as the team’s most valuable player. Cosgrove said Bates’ success was as much the product of hard work as it was inherent talent.

“I think (football) was empowering for him,” he said.

Pro scouts noticed and started showing up at games by his senior year.

Jamil Demby, who played with Bates for two years at UMaine and later on the Detroit Lions’ practice squad, said Bates welcomed him when he arrived at Maine.

“He invited me, as a freshman, even before the season, to the Bible study. He was all open arms, a real great guy,” Demby said. “As time went on, we battled against each other (in practice). We got close and tried to make each other better. I know he made me better.”

When Bates’ name was called by the Indianapolis Colts in the 2016 NFL draft, he became just the third Maine high school player to be drafted.

PLAYING IN THE NFL; SERVING THE COMMUNITY

Bates wasn’t immediately successful in the NFL.

He appeared in one game for the Colts before he was cut. Later in the year, he signed with the New England Patriots. He didn’t make it past the practice squad but was with the team when it won the Super Bowl in February 2017.

The Patriots signed him for the following season but he was cut at the end of training camp.

The New York Giants soon signed him to the practice squad but released him a couple of months later.

Bates didn’t join another team until May 2018, when the Lions signed him to their practice squad. He was promoted to the active roster in October, signing a two-year contract worth just over $1 million.

Demby, his former UMaine teammate, was on the practice squad with Bates in Detroit last year.

“He was doing great,” he said. “I know the coaching staff talked highly of him for a fact. He made some new friends there. They had nothing but good words on Trev, and I know he was loved there.”

Bates had started to get more involved in the community, too.

Perez, the friend from Detroit, said the first time he met Bates was when he invited him to his home for dinner. Bates wore a sweatshirt that read “Just a kid from Maine.”

“That was Trevor,” Perez said.

Perez has created Facebook and Twitter pages called #TruthAboutTrevorBates to highlight some of his community service work and portray him more three-dimensionally.

Scottie Barnes, the founder of the North Carolina faith-based nonprofit Forgiven Ministry, has known Bates since last year.

Bates had heard about the nonprofit’s work – helping inmates reconcile and restore relationship with their children – and wanted to help.

“It didn’t take me long to hear the passion and sincerity of Trevor Bates as we talked about the need to guide and work together to reach children of inmates,” Barnes said in an email.

Barnes said she talked and texted with Bates regularly and then took a trip to Michigan last October to meet with him. Bates was fully on board with helping. He even spoke to a group of prisoners there.

“I was so touched to have him speak to a group of inmate fathers sharing how important it is to be part of your children’s life even from behind prison bars,” Barnes said. “I have brought in many speakers who shared awesome thoughts, but I have never met anyone with such a humble, genuine spirit and dedication to be used to make a difference in the life of others as I have Trevor Bates.”

A week before his arrest, Bates hosted a bowling event for children in Detroit with incarcerated parents through the local organization, Pure Heart Foundation.

Jeff Jankovich, Bates’ agent, said he hasn’t had a chance to talk with his client yet and couldn’t discuss the circumstances surrounding his arrest.

“My personal experience with him in the NFL, there were never any issues,” the Maryland-based agent said. “He was never someone where you worried about where he was or what he was doing.”

Marqus Bates said he last saw Trevor late last year at a family event. He said his brother was doing well but was a little “overwhelmed” about all the community service work he was involved in.

Trevor’s mother, Christy, said in an interview with the New York Post after his arrest that her son was tired and worn out from the recent football season.

IN COURT OF PUBLIC OPINION, ‘GAVEL DROPS REALLY FAST’

Police in New York have released few details about Bates’ arrest.

Early in the morning of Jan. 26, Bates took a taxi from Manhattan to the Hampton Inn near LaGuardia Airport. Police say Bates refused to pay the $32 fare.

It’s not clear how things unfolded from there, but Bates was taken to the 115th Precinct station house in Jackson Heights. Police said they were prepared to release him with just a ticket, as long as he didn’t have any outstanding warrants. But when an officer tried to take Bates’ fingerprints, he refused, police said, and became “increasingly agitated.”

Another officer, Sgt. James O’Brien, tried to calm Bates down. Police say Bates then punched O’Brien. Police said another officer used a Taser to subdue Bates, but Bates ripped the stun gun’s prongs out of his own chest. Bates was finally subdued, although officers didn’t say how.

Bates wasn’t taken to jail but to Elmhurst Hospital Center in Queens. He was then transferred to Bellevue Hospital Center in Manhattan for a psychiatric evaluation. He’s been there since.

Tina Nadeau, a defense attorney in Portland, said what she’s read so far about Bates’ arrest “raises a thousand more questions than it answers.”

She said if he hasn’t been arraigned yet, doctors – not police or prosecutors – are deciding how to treat him and how long he should be held.

“He seems to be in the right place if he had some type of crisis or break,” Nadeau said.

The alleged assault on Sgt. O’Brien angered the police union, the Sergeants Benevolent Association, which posted on Twitter: “Trevor Bates acted beyond that of a wild animal. He refused to be fingerprinted, showed disdain for the officers & decided to punch a Sgt in the face. Fighting with officers he was tasered & ripped the taser prongs from his body. He’s dog crap and the NFL condones criminals.”

Detroit Lions executive vice president Bob Quinn released a statement shortly after Bates’ arrest: “We are aware of the arrest of Trevor Bates earlier today in New York. We have not spoken to Trevor as of yet and are still in the process of gathering more information. The Detroit Lions will have no further comment at this time.”

A spokesman said late last week that the team still has no further comment.

No one close to Bates saw any signs of erratic behavior.

“No, not at all. Honestly 99 percent, or all of us, are surprised by this,” Demby said. “I have no clue what’s going on. He never showed anything of this nature, had no history of this at all.”

Chris McLaughlin, who played at UMaine long before Bates but has gotten to know him through alumni events, said he couldn’t believe the story.

“Everyone makes mistakes, but this just doesn’t sound like him,” he said, adding that he’s worried that Bates’ reputation might be forever tarnished. “When you’re judged in the court of public opinion, the gavel drops really fast.”

Perez said he doesn’t know what happened in New York but doesn’t believe his friend would have attacked a police officer, or anybody else, unprovoked. He worries that police are providing the only account of what happened.

Pat Ricard, a former teammate of Bates at UMaine who just finished his second season with the Baltimore Ravens, said he doesn’t understand it either. He worries how the media attention last weekend will affect Bates’ future.

“When people see the headlines, they’re going to attack,” Ricard said. “And they don’t know the guy.”

Staff Writers Mike Lowe and Glenn Jordan contributed to this story.

Eric Russell can be contacted at 791-6344 or at:

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Twitter: PPHEricRussell

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