Sean Taylor Dies in Miami
By Amy Shipley and Jason La Canfora
Washington Post Staff Writers
Tuesday, November 27, 2007; 2:43 PM
MIAMI, Nov. 27 — Washington Redskins safety Sean Taylor died early Tuesday from the gunshot wound he suffered a day earlier in his Miami home.
"He did not make it through the night," said Taylor’s attorney, Richard Sharpstein, who called the incident "a ridiculous, unnecessary tragedy."
Taylor, 24, a Pro Bowl safety whose rocky first years in the NFL had given way to what teammates called a newfound maturity, died at Jackson Memorial Hospital, where he had been taken after being shot once in the leg early Monday morning. Police are investigating the incident as a possible home invasion.
Sharpstein said he was informed of the death by Taylor’s father, Pedro Taylor, who called him around 5 a.m. with the news. He told CNN that the elder Taylor "was overwrought with grief and called me to tell me that Sean was with God . . . They’re just overcome at this particular point with the loss of a son and father and friend and just an incredible person."
The bullet severed Taylor’s femoral artery, causing massive blood loss. He underwent seven hours of surgery, and there were some initially optimistic signs after he emerged from the operation early Monday evening. Described at first as "unresponsive and unconscious," Taylor had squeezed a doctor’s hand and made facial expressions, Redskins officials and a family friend said, providing some hope.
But the trauma proved too great. The bleeding could not be stopped, only curbed a bit, Sharpstein said.
Taylor died at 3:30 a.m. Eastern time Tuesday, Miami-Dade Police spokesman Alvaro Zubaleta told reporters. He said police are trying to determine whether there is any connection between the shooting early Monday and a break-in at the home Nov. 18. Zubaleta described the break-in as a burglary.
The spokesman said police do yet have descriptions of any suspects.
Taylor died surrounded by some family members, said Donald Walker, a family friend. "Things turned for the worse," Walker said by phone from Taylor’s mother’s house around 6 a.m. There "seemed like a lot of hope after he responded to the doctor’s command. But he lost a lot of blood."
Redskins Park was mostly quiet Tuesday morning as grim-faced team officials trickled into work. A small bouquet of white flowers had been placed at the main entrance, and flags were lowered to half-staff. Fans, who had gathered Monday with candles, returned Tuesday morning to huddle near Taylor’s parking spot.
"This is the worst imaginable tragedy. Our thoughts and prayers are with Sean’s family," Redskins owner Daniel Snyder said in a statement posted on the team’s Web site. The team’s brief statement said Taylor’s family had notified the team "that Taylor passed away."
Roger Goodell, commissioner of the National Football League, said in a statement, "The entire NFL is deeply saddened by the death of Sean Taylor. We extend our heartfelt sympathy to Sean’s family, friends, teammates and the Redskins’ organization. This is a terrible tragedy involving the loss of a young man who leaves behind many people struggling to understand it." He said Taylor will be honored at all NFL games this weekend.
Taylor’s father also released a statement Tuesday, thanking medical staff and others for their support. He also said, "Many of his fans loved him because 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."
No arrests have been made in the case, and police have released little information.
Sharpstein has provided details in various interviews. He said Taylor and his fiancee, Jackie Garcia, were asleep with their 18-month-old daughter when they were awakened by noises in the house. Taylor reached for a machete or other form of knife he keeps nearby in case of emergency, Sharpstein said. He told CNN that Taylor then locked the door of the bedroom, but an intruder kicked the door in and fired twice, striking Taylor once in the upper leg.
Garcia and child were uninjured.
Redskins vice president of football operations Vinny Cerrato said Taylor’s fiancee tried to call police from the house line, only to discover that the line had been cut. She had to use her cellphone to call 911, which delayed the response time.
"This was a deliberate attack," Cerrato said without elaborating.
Miami-Dade police responded to the 911 call at about 1:40 a.m. Monday at Taylor’s home in an upscale suburb known as Palmetto Bay, a police spokesman said. Taylor was airlifted to the hospital’s trauma unit, but Sharpstein said the NFL star was "pretty much gone" from the rapid and massive amount of blood lost in the minutes after he was shot.
No further surgical procedures had been planned for Taylor. Doctors expressed concern that, even if he survived, his brain could have been damaged from lack of oxygen, Sharpstein said. A Redskins team source, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said Taylor’s heart stopped beating twice during surgery.
"What they told us was to hope for a miracle," said Cerrato, who flew to Miami with Snyder, running back Clinton Portis and other team officials on Snyder’s private jet.
News of the shooting spread quickly through Redskins Park, the team’s training facility in Ashburn, on Monday. Normal team activities were suspended, and players were dismissed. Redskins Coach Joe Gibbs and team chaplain Brett Fuller addressed the club around noon, informing them that Taylor was fighting for his life.
"For all of us here, we’re obviously in shock," a shaken Gibbs told reporters. "I know I can’t put it into words."
Taylor, the Redskins’ top draft choice in 2004 who was selected to the Pro Bowl for the first time last year, was having his best season as a professional before suffering a knee injury on Nov. 11 that forced him to miss the past two games.
Taylor did not accompany the team to Tampa for Sunday’s game against the Buccaneers, which is customary for injured players who are undergoing medical treatment. Gibbs said he was unaware Taylor had returned to Miami, where he grew up and went to college at the University of Miami.
About 30 of Taylor’s friends and family kept vigil in the trauma center waiting room into the night on Monday, praying together, wiping tear-reddened eyes and waiting for updates on his condition.
Things seemed bleak at various points. At about 3:30 p.m., a man who described himself as a friend of Taylor’s walked out of the trauma unit and kneeled in prayer in the parking lot. He was sobbing. After wiping away his tears, he returned to the waiting room.
Taylor’s younger brother "is looking very sad and his dad is looking sad," said Marvin Riggens, 27, after stepping outside briefly to make cellphone calls. "From what I understand, it’s not looking very good right now."
At 4:30 p.m., Snyder, Portis, Cerrato and two other team officials arrived at the hospital, emerging from a black Mercedes-Benz sedan and a Cadillac Escalade.
Early Tuesday, the Miami Herald reported, family members and other loved ones were seen leaving the hospital in tears.
The shooting came eight days after another incident was reported at Taylor’s home. An intruder pried open a front window, went through drawers and a safe and left a kitchen knife on a bed, according to the police report of the Nov. 18 incident.
Despite the break-in a week ago, there was no security system at Taylor’s house, according to Emory Williams, a cousin of Taylor’s.
A day after that first incident, Taylor called Gibbs from Miami and requested permission to remain in the city to deal with matters related to the attempted burglary, Gibbs said. Gibbs said he obliged, excusing Taylor from some team meetings.
Since the Redskins drafted Taylor, the safety has had several brushes with the law and National Football League rules. Taylor was charged with a felony count of aggravated assault with a firearm for allegedly brandishing a gun in a Miami neighborhood in 2005.
Taylor reached a plea agreement and avoided jail time, but was fined $71,764 by the NFL for violating the personal conduct clause of his contract.
The NFL also has fined Taylor for illegal hits, uniform violations and spitting on Tampa Bay running back Michael Pittman during a playoff game in January 2006. In 2004, Gibbs suspended Taylor for one game after he was arrested for driving under the influence; those charges were later dropped.
In the past two years, however, Taylor has earned praise from coaches and teammates for maturing and better work habits. Portis, a former University of Miami teammate, said Taylor had grown up considerably since the birth of his daughter, Jackie, in May 2006.
"It’s hard to expect a man to grow up overnight," Portis said before departing for Miami. "But ever since he had this child it was like a new Sean. And everybody around here knew it. He was always smiling, always happy, always talking about his child."
Shipley reported from Miami, La Canfora from Ashburn. Staff writers Les Carpenter and Peter Whoriskey in Miami, and researcher Julie Tate contributed to this report.
By dbking on 2005-08-08 17:53:20