LAKE OSWEGO, Ore., Oct. 13, 2004 -- Police and humane society officials are investigating animal cruelty and dog fighting allegations against Portland Trail Blazer forward Qyntel Woods, who allegedly dumped a battle-scarred pit bull on a Portland street earlier this month.
The Trail Blazers announced Tuesday that Woods had been suspended without pay, pending the team's own investigation into the allegations.
"We are deeply disturbed by the developments in this case and we believe that suspending Qyntel is warranted and necessary," Trail Blazers President Steve Patterson said in a statement.
Clackamas County Sheriff's deputies and Oregon Humane Society officials executed a search warrant at Woods' Lake Oswego home on Monday, while the NBA player was working out with the team at the Trail Blazers' practice facility in Tualatin. A half-dozen pit bulls were removed from the home last week, a police source told ABC News affiliate KATU in Portland.
Shortly after investigators entered Woods' residence Monday, they removed evidence and dug up disturbed areas of the back yard looking for dog remains and evidence of dog fights being held on the property, investigators said.
"We gathered enough evidence to establish probable cause to believe that there was the crime of dog fighting or participation in the crime of dog fighting at the home of Qyntel Woods," Oregon Humane Society Lt. Randy Covey told ABCNews.com. "However, we're not sure where the evidence may lead us."
The 23-year-old forward, who has averaged 3.1 points per game in his two years in the NBA, has denied doing anything wrong.
Woods is being investigated by several law enforcement and animal protection agencies for three different alleged actions, all of which could -- if the evidence warrants -- lead to criminal charges.
If it is determined that he abandoned a 2-year-old female pit bull in northeast Portland on Oct. 2, as officials at Multnomah County Animal Control -- the agency with jurisdiction in Portland -- have been told he did, he could end up facing animal abuse and neglect charges.
If it is found that he bought pit bulls to use them in fights, he could face federal charges.
If evidence is found at Woods' home that shows he used his property for organized fights, he could face a felony dog fighting charge, which carries a maximum penalty of five years in prison and $120,000 in fines.
'I Just Decided to Get Rid of It'
The gold-colored dog was found with fresh puncture wounds, scars and bruises on her chest, belly and legs, according to investigators. The rescue worker caring for the dog said some of the wounds were sealed with tar, which she said was a common treatment used by dog fighters.
When KATU News asked Woods about the dog on Oct. 4, he said he has never fought pit bulls and said he was giving the animal away.
"I was going to breed it with my other dog, but they didn't take, so I just decided to get rid of it," he said. "I know this guy and I took my dog over there. And he saw my dog and he wanted it. So I gave it to him."
Woods has since denied that the wounded dog found abandoned in Portland is his. However, Gabby Cholak of K-9 Rescue, the animal rescuer who was called to pick up the dog, says witnesses told her they had seen Woods leaving the animal, who they said he called "Hollywood," in an alley.
Records in Clackamas County, where the NBA player lives, show he has owned a gold-colored pit bull named Hollywood since early this year.
Attempts to reach Woods for comment were unsuccessful, and his agent, Raymond Brothers, did not immediately return calls from ABCNEWS.com.
The Associated Press reported that Brothers denied his client was involved with dog fighting and said he is appealing the suspension to the players' union.
'New Scars on Top of Old Scars'
Cholak, who has been caring for the dog, believes she was being used as a fighter.
"There's old scars and new scars on top of old scars and then fresh wounds, which indicates to me that the dog has repeatedly been in fights," she said.
It appeared that that the dog, who is now recovering, could have been in a fight as recently as the day before she was found, Cholak said.
Officials at Multnomah County Animal Control, however, said it is a challenge to prove that dog bites are the result of organized fights rather than normal encounters between animals.
"Bite wounds are bite wounds," said the agency's John Rowton. "There is no note attached that says this dog was in a fight or it got hurt in an off-leash park."
A man, who asked that his name not be used, told KATU News last week that Woods said he had pit bulls for fighting. The man said he met Woods at Portland International Airport about seven or eight months ago, when Woods was picking up a dog that had been shipped from Florida.
"I asked him, 'Do you breed them?' He said 'No, I fight them,'" the man told KATU, recounting a conversation he said took place in the Delta Air Cargo parking lot at the airport. "I wasn't really surprised, but I couldn't believe someone would brag about it, you know, the audacity to brag."
A person could face dog fighting charges even if there weren't dogs found that showed signs of having been fought, as long as there was evidence of fights being held on the property, said the Oregon Humane Society's Covey.
"You wouldn't actually need to have dogs [on the residence], you just need to be able to prove that a dog fight occurred on a residence," he said.
Troubled Player, Troubled Team
Woods has had a few run-ins with the law since being drafted by Portland in 2002 out of Northeast Mississippi Community College. He has been cited for drug possession, driving with a suspended license and driving without proof of insurance.
Woods has been accused of mistreating his animals in the past, according to records obtained by KATU News that were filed with Clackamas County Dog Control in January.
The complaints claim Woods' dogs were left outside for days without food or water and barely any shelter during a freak snow and ice storm that hit the area in January. At the time, Woods was on the road with the team.
The case is another potential black eye for the Trail Blazer organization, which has been trying to improve the team's image after a series of high-profile arrests and criminal investigations of some of Portland's top players.
The team had traded away some players seen as problems, such as Rasheed Wallace and Bonzi Wells, and announced a "25-point pledge" to earn back the respect of fans who had once been among the most loyal in pro basketball.
In the statement announcing Woods' suspension, the team's president said the organization would take whatever action it deemed appropriate.
"We have said from the beginning that we are taking this situation very seriously," Patterson said. "This organization will not accept this type of behavior and if these allegations prove to be true and if further steps are needed, we will not hesitate to take them. These allegations are upsetting to us and we know our fans feel the same way."