MIAMI — Washington Redskins safety Sean Taylor died early Tuesday, a day after the Pro Bowl player was shot at home by what police say was an intruder. He was 24.
In a statement released by the Redskins Tuesday morning, owner Daniel Snyder said, "This is the worst imaginable tragedy. Our thoughts and prayers are with Sean's family."
Sean Taylor, S
Born: 4/1/83 Miami, FL
College: Miami (Fla.)
Exp.: 4th season
High School: Gulliver Prep [Miami]Family friend Richard Sharpstein said Taylor's father told him the news around 5:30 a.m.
"His father called and said he was with Christ and he cried and thanked me," said Sharpstein, Taylor's former lawyer. "It's a tremendously sad and unnecessary event. He was a wonderful, humble, talented young man, and had a huge life in front of him. Obviously God had other plans."
Taylor died at Jackson Memorial Hospital, where he had been airlifted after the shooting early Monday, Sharpstein said.
Two carloads of mourners, including the athlete's father, arrived at the house Tuesday morning. They remained inside and did not speak to reporters. A single bouquet of flowers was left by a palm tree just outside a front gate. Beside the mailbox, an untouched newspaper lay with news of Taylor's shooting.
At Redskins Park in Ashburn, Va., fans began a makeshift memorial by laying flowers on a field near the front entrance. Several people paid silent respects at Taylor's parking space, a reward he received as the team's defensive player of the week in a game against Philadelphia in September.
Doctors had been encouraged late Monday when Taylor squeezed a nurse's hand, according to Vinny Cerrato, the Redskins' vice president of football operations. But Sharpstein said he was told Taylor never regained consciousness after being transported to the hospital and that he wasn't sure how he had squeezed the nurse's hand.
"Maybe he was trying to say goodbye or something," Sharpstein said.
Taylor, the fifth overall pick in the 2004 NFL draft following an All-American season at the University of Miami, was shot early Monday in the upper leg, damaging the key femoral artery and causing significant blood loss.
Tragedy in Miami
Fans hold a candlelight vigil for Sean Taylor outside Redskins Park. Taylor was shot and is listed in critical condition at a Miami hospital.
"According to a preliminary investigation, it appears that the victim was shot inside the home by an intruder," Miami-Dade County police said in a statement. "We do not have a subject description at this time."
But police were still investigating the attack, which came just eight days after an intruder was reported at Taylor's home. Officers were sent to the home about 1:45 a.m. Monday after Taylor's girlfriend called 911.
Sharpstein said Taylor's girlfriend told him the couple was awakened by loud noises, and Taylor grabbed a machete he keeps in the bedroom for protection. Someone then broke through the bedroom door and fired two shots, one missing and one hitting Taylor, Sharpstein said. Taylor's 1-year-old daughter, Jackie, was also in the house, but neither she nor Taylor's girlfriend were injured.
Police found signs of forced entry, but have not determined if they were caused Monday, or the previous burglary.
The shooting happened in the pale yellow house he bought two years ago. Eight days before the attack someone pried open a front window, rifled through drawers and left a kitchen knife on a bed at Taylor's home, according to police.
"They're really sifting through that incident and today's incident," Miami-Dade Detective Mario Rachid said, "to see if there's any correlation."
Taylor's death comes nearly a year after Broncos cornerback Darrent Williams was killed in a drive-by shooting following an argument at a Denver nightclub on Jan. 1. University of Miami defensive lineman Bryan Pata was shot to death in November 2006 several miles from Taylor's home in an unsolved killing.
Born April 1, 1983, Taylor starred as a running back and defensive back at Gulliver Prep in Miami. His father, Pedro Taylor, is police chief of Florida City.
A private man with a small inner circle, Taylor rarely granted interviews. But, behind the scenes, Taylor was described as personable and smart — an emerging locker room leader.
"From the first day I met him, from then to now, it's just like night and day," Redskins receiver James Thrash said Monday. "He's really got his head on his shoulders and has been doing really well as far as just being a man. It's been awesome to see that growth."
The Washington Redskins are coordinating memorials for Sean Taylor at both Redskins Park and FedExField.
The No. 21 will be painted in a grass parking area on the right side of the road in front of the guardhouse leading into Redskins Park. In addition, No. 21 will also be painted on the plaza in front of the Redskins Hall of Fame store on the south side of FedExField. Both memorials should be finalized by early afternoon today.
Fans will be allowed to access these areas as a memorial to Sean Taylor and leave any tributes or flowers as they may choose.
Information regarding any planned memorial services or donations will be communicated when available.
» Latest from Redskins.com After Taylor was drafted, problems soon began. Taylor fired his agent, then skipped part of the NFL's mandatory rookie symposium, drawing a $25,000 fine. Driving home late from a party during the season, he was pulled over and charged with drunken driving. The case was dismissed in court, but by then it had become a months-long distraction for the Redskins.
Taylor also was fined at least seven times for late hits, uniform violations and other infractions over his first three seasons, including a $17,000 penalty for spitting in the face of Tampa Bay running back Michael Pittman during a 2006 playoff game.
Meanwhile, Taylor endured a yearlong legal battle after he was accused in 2005 of brandishing a gun at a man during a fight over allegedly stolen all-terrain vehicles near Taylor's home. He eventually pleaded no contest to two misdemeanors and was sentenced to 18 months' probation.
Taylor said the end of the assault case was like "a gray cloud" being lifted. It was also around the time that his daughter was born, and teammates noticed a change.
On the field, Taylor's play was often erratic. Assistant coach Gregg Williams frequently called Taylor the best athlete he'd ever coached, but nearly every big play was mitigated by a blown assignment. Taylor led the NFL in missed tackles in 2006 yet made the Pro Bowl because of his reputation as one of the hardest hitters in the league.
This year, however, Taylor was allowed to play a true free safety position, using his speed and power to chase down passes and crush would-be receivers. His five interceptions tie for the league lead in the NFC, even though he missed the last two games because of a sprained knee.
"I just take this job very seriously," Taylor said in a rare group interview during training camp. "It's almost like, you play a kid's game for a king's ransom. And if you don't take it serious enough, eventually one day you're going to say, 'Oh, I could have done this, I could have done that.'
"So I just say, 'I'm healthy right now, I'm going into my fourth year, and why not do the best that I can?' And that's whatever it is, whether it's eating right or training myself right, whether it's studying harder, whatever I can do to better myself."
Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press
My prayers goes out to the Taylor family.