NOPD issues warrant for former Saint Darren Sharper

Rape accusations against former Saints safety Darren Sharper continued to increase Thursday as New Orleans police issued a warrant for his arrest, saying he is suspected of sexually assaulting two women in September at a Warehouse District apartment.

Police said they also issued a warrant for Erik Nunez, one of Sharper’s friends, who is alleged to have raped the same two women the same night.

Sharper, 38, is the focus of at least five other rape investigations in four states.

He already has been charged with the drugging of two women and subsequent rapes in Los Angeles. He pleaded not guilty last week to the charges he faces there and remains free on $1 million bail.

NOPD spo-keswoman Remi Braden said Sharper and Nunez, 26, each face two counts of aggravated rape for an alleged incident on Sept. 23.

In a police report released last month, an officer said one woman had come forward with a rape allegation against Sharper.

Braden, in a short news release, said investigators last week learned that Sharper, in fact, assaulted two women that night in an apartment in the 700 block of Tchoupitoulas Street. Recently uncovered information indicates that Nunez also allegedly raped the women the same night in the same apartment, Braden said.

The investigation remains open, and additional arrests are possible, she said.

Prosecutors in Los Angeles last week hinted during his bail hearing that another allegation against Sharper might come to light in New Orleans, mentioning a second investigation here.

Nandi Campbell, Sharper’s local attorney, did not immediately return a call seeking comment. She previously said the claims against him were unfounded, citing an alleged lack of evidence and the fact that no charges had been filed against him for the alleged Warehouse District rape.

According to court documents filed in Los Angeles, a sexual-assault exam performed Sept. 24 found Sharper’s DNA was present on a swab taken from an unidentified 25-year-old victim in New Orleans.

A message left for Nunez was not immediately returned, and no one answered a knock on the door of an address listed in public records as his home. It was not clear if he has an attorney.

He had not been jailed as of Thursday evening, according to Orleans Parish Prison records.

On the website of We Stand As One, an anti-violence campaign made up of several current and former Saints players, Nunez is described as the group’s event coordinator.

We Stand As One appears to operate under the umbrella of another organization, Get Checked or Check Out, a nonprofit that promotes breast-cancer awareness and works to increase health-care opportunities in minority communities.

No one answered the phone Thursday evening at Get Checked or Check Out.

Since 2010, Sharper also has hosted Football Camp for Women, a day in which he and other Saints players would teach the rules of the game to hotel ballrooms full of cheering women. Promotional material describes the seminars as a “chance to increase your football intelligence and mingle with New Orleans Saints players.”

In advertising one of the camps last fall, Sharper tweeted Nov. 1 that women who attend “will be touched in many ways.”

In both of the Los Angeles assaults, Sharper was accused of picking up pairs of women who described blacking out after drinking shots he prepared. In each of those cases — on Oct. 30 and Jan. 14 — he is accused of raping one of the women.

Since his Jan. 17 arrest in Los Angeles, Sharper also has been identified as the subject of rape investigations in Las Vegas; Tempe, Ariz.; and Miami Beach, Fla., where he has a home.

All of those cases, which remain open and under investigation, share similar features: Sharper allegedly offered women drinks that appeared to knock them out almost instantly, with them later waking up with little or no memory of the night but feeling as if they had been raped.

Following his arraignment last week in Los Angeles, a judge ordered Sharper to remain in that city and to stay away from any nightclub or business that serves alcohol. The judge said he must not be alone with any female he did not know before Oct. 30, the date of the first alleged rape in California.

In addition to the rapes, Sharper was charged in Los Angeles with four counts of sale or transportation of zolpidem — a sedative commonly known under the brand name Ambien — and one count of morphine possession.

Each of the charges is a felony.

Sharper’s attorneys have maintained his innocence and said he will claim that any sexual contact in the Los Angeles incidents was consensual.

Sharper is due back in Los Angeles Superior Court on April 15 to decide when a preliminary hearing will be held.

Staff writer Ramon Vargas contributed to this report.