The long-haired, large-chinned, beanie-wearing Austin Lee Russell has gained a cult following for his role in the History Channel reality show “Pawn Stars.”
He talks slowly, with unintentional humor. He shares a child’s sense of wonderment. He goes by Chumlee, after the cartoon walrus Chumley in the animated series “Tennessee Tuxedo and His Tales.”
After the show debuted in 2009, the longtime employee of Gold and Silver Pawn Shop quickly became the most beloved figure on a reality series that broke History Channel records in 2011.
“Everybody loves Chum,” his Web profile reads, “but he is often the butt of the boys’ jokes.” Despite persistent attempts to prove his colleagues wrong, Russell has remained the token “village idiot.”
This reputation took a dark turn Wednesday, when Russell was arrested on felony weapon and drug charges, the Associated Press reported. Police said in a statement that the 33-year-old was taken into custody after officers searched his home in southwest Las Vegas as part of a sexual assault investigation and found methamphetamine, marijuana and at least one gun.
While Russell wasn’t arrested on a sex crime allegation, Officer Larry Hadfield told the AP, the investigation prompted by a recent complaint is ongoing.
He was being held at the Clark County Detention Center on 19 drug-possession charges and one weapon charge Wednesday night, with bail set at $62,000.
A spokesman for A&E Network and the History Channel declined to comment to AP.
Russell operates a successful merchandise line and boasts a 229,000-strong Twitter following.
“People can relate to me, and they root for me because on the show I am the dumb guy, the one who is a little rougher around the edges,” Russell told the Las Vegas Sun in 2014. “I’m the guy they want to hug.”
According to the Sun, Russell had a “humble upbringing,” and his father died of pancreatic cancer weeks before “Pawn Stars” premiered.
A fan standing outside the pawn shop Wednesday night defended his Chum.
“I don’t see Chumlee doing that,” Damon Leaks told KTNV. “I think that might be somebody out trying to get” his money.
Another fan, Lamar Jones, seemed to be channeling Russell’s pithy manner of speech when he said: “Meth, wow, that’s a shocker.”
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