Crime

The day a football superstar was shot to death inside his Miami-area home

Washington Redskins football player Sean Taylor is seen before the start of a game against the Jacksonville Jaguars in Jacksonville in 2007. Taylor died from injuries sustained when he was shot during a burglary later in the year.
Washington Redskins football player Sean Taylor is seen before the start of a game against the Jacksonville Jaguars in Jacksonville in 2007. Taylor died from injuries sustained when he was shot during a burglary later in the year. AP File

Note: Sean Taylor, who played football for the University of Miami and the Washington Redskins, died on November 27, 2007, after being shot at his Palmetto Bay home. This is the original Miami Herald account of the shooting and the hunt for the killers.

Miami-Dade detectives looking for the mysterious intruder who shot football star Sean Taylor now say they are hunting a killer.

After clinging to life nearly 24 hours, the Washington Redskins Pro Bowl safety succumbed to a bullet wound to the leg about 3:30 a.m. Tuesday at Jackson Memorial Hospital in Miami. Shot Monday morning at his Palmetto Bay home -- just feet from his baby daughter -- he died before he could speak to detectives. They are treating his death as a homicide. Under scrutiny of national media, investigators are looking into everything from a 2005 fight involving Taylor to a strange break-in last week at his home.

Shot in the groin, Taylor suffered massive blood loss from a severed femoral artery. Doctors who operated on him later in the afternoon could not save him, although family members said he was able to squeeze a doctor’s hand, giving them reason for hope.

That hope was crushed early Tuesday. Family and other loved ones, who maintained a vigil overnight, left the hospital in tears. Taylor’s girlfriend, Jackie Garcia, who was at home with Taylor when he was shot, could not be reached for comment.

FATHER’S STATEMENT

Taylor’s father, Pedro Taylor, issued the following statement on behalf of the family:

“It is with deep regret that a young man had to come to his end so soon. Many of his fans loved him because of the way he played football. Many of his opponents feared him, the way he approached the game. Others misunderstood him, many appreciated him and his family loved him. I can only hope and pray that Sean’s life was not in vain, that it might touch others in a special way.”

Funeral arrangements were pending.

Miami-Dade homicide detectives have few leads and have asked for the public’s assistance. Anyone who might have seen or heard anything is urged to call Miami-Dade CrimeStoppers at 305-471-TIPS.

The shooting took place at about 1:30 a.m. Monday after Taylor and his girlfriend were startled awake by noises at their sprawling home on Old Cutler Road.

Taylor told Garcia to get under the covers while he shut the bedroom door and grabbed a machete he kept for protection under his bed, according to Taylor’s attorney and family friend Richard Sharpstein.

As she cuddled their 18-month-old infant, Garcia told Sharpstein she did not hear any voices but said “she heard a lot of noise that she related to more than one person. There seemed to be a lot of commotion.”

Then, she told him, the door swung open and Taylor was shot. The gunman never stepped into the room.

The intruder fired two bullets. One hit Taylor; the other hit a wall. Taylor tumbled back into the bedroom, wounded in the groin, Sharpstein said. The gunman fled immediately after firing.

“Nothing was stolen,” Sharpstein said.

He said Garcia called 911 on a cellphone -- the house phone was not working. Miami-Dade patrol officers reported receiving the call at 1:45 a.m.

Taylor, who had injured his knee earlier in the season, was not expected to be home. He had come back to Palmetto Bay while the Redskins played in Tampa to see an orthopedic surgeon for a second opinion on the knee, Sharpstein said.

“My instincts tell me this was not a murder or a hit. It was certainly not professionally done in that two random shots were fired,” Sharpstein said.

The shooting came just eight days after Taylor’s family had reported that someone had broken into his home, according to police records. The intruder, who pried open a front window, entered several rooms of the unoccupied home and rifled through drawers and a safe in the bedroom.

In that incident, someone left a kitchen knife on a bed, the police report says. Police are investigating whether there is a connection to the Monday’s shooting.

Technicians had dusted for fingerprints and other evidence. The work was submitted to Miami-Dade’s lab but had yet to be processed because residential burglaries usually don’t take priority. After Taylor’s death, however, the lab will work on it immediately, said Miami-Dade Detective Robert Williams, a spokesman.

“It’s a homicide, and we want to gather as many clues as we possibly can in order to identify the person who might have committed this crime,” Williams said.

2005 INCIDENT

Police are also reviewing an incident in 2005 when Taylor was arrested after reportedly waving a gun at people he believed had stolen his all-terrain vehicle. He later pleaded no contest to misdemeanor assault and battery charges.

Following the plea, Ryan Hill, one of the men Taylor allegedly accosted, sued Taylor. Hill accused Taylor of hitting him repeatedly and threatening him with a gun. The suit is pending.

Hill, in an interview with Miami Herald news partner WFOR-CBS4 on Tuesday, said he had not been interviewed by police and denied any involvement in Taylor’s murder.

“I saw him in the mall three months ago and he said hi to me and everything, and he was happy,” Hill said.

Taylor’s attorney, Bob Burlington, said Hill’s suit was an attempt to shake down the millionaire football star for money.

“[Taylor] never expressed to me that he received any threats or had any trepidation or fears that continued beyond that one incident,” Burlington said.

Miami Herald staff writers Erika Beras, Evan S. Benn and Susannah A. Nesmith contributed to this report.

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