Redskins' Sean Taylor shot in S. Dade
Posted on Mon, Nov. 26, 2007
By ERIKA BERAS, SUSAN MILLER DEGNAN AND OSCAR CORRAL
NFL star Sean Taylor rose from his bed early Monday after noises in his sprawling Old Cutler Road home startled him and his girlfriend. He grabbed a machete from underneath his bed and went to investigate.
He didn't get far. An armed intruder burst through the bedroom door and fired at least one shot. Taylor tumbled back into the bedroom, critically wounded in the groin, said lawyer Richard Sharpstein.
After undergoing surgery Monday, Taylor was fighting for his life, said Sharpstein, an attorney for the standout safety with the Washington Redskins and former Miami Hurricanes All-American. Sharpstein represented the controversial football player in a previous criminal case.
The alarm at the home had not been activated, a police official said, even though eight days earlier someone had broken into the house and rifled through Taylor's possessions, leaving a kitchen knife on a bed.
About 20 family members and friends gathered at Jackson Memorial Hospital's Ryder Trauma Center, where Taylor was airlifted. They cried, made phone calls, talked to each other.
Taylor's mother, Donna Junor, said in a brief telephone interview that her son had squeezed a nurse's hand Monday evening, showing signs that he may be responding to treatment.
''I am happy, I am hopeful, but I really don't know what else to say,'' she said.
Sharpstein said Taylor, 24, emerged from surgery about 12:30 p.m. but had lost a lot of blood and remained unconscious, his brain at risk of injury from the blood loss. He was in intensive care.
The gunman was still on the loose.
According to police, Miami-Dade patrol officers received a call about 1:45 a.m. Monday that Taylor had been shot in the $900,000 home in Palmetto Bay.
Paramedics arrived and found Taylor with a gunshot wound to the groin. Among the those responding was George Mira, Jr., a linebacker who lettered at UM from 1984 to 1987 and now a fire batallion chief. Detective Juan Villalba, a Miami-Dade police spokesman, said police were interviewing relatives who were potential witnesses.
Sharpstein said the couple's baby was also in the bedroom and slept through the entire incident, including the two gunshots. The shooter fled immediately after firing.
''Nothing was stolen. They shot at him and fled,'' Sharpstein said.
According to police records, someone also broke into Taylor's house between 7 p.m. on Saturday, Nov. 17 and midnight Sunday Nov. 18, by prying open a front window. No one was home at the time. The burglar entered several rooms in the house, rifled through drawers, and a safe in Taylor's bedroom. The police report says it was ''unknown'' whether anything was taken.
In that incident, someone left a kitchen knife on a bed in Taylor's house, according to the police report. Damage was also ``observed to the A/C vent in Taylor's bathroom.''
Retirees Pat and Jim Smith live in the house next to Taylor's. They said they heard voices outside about 2:30 a.m. Monday and went outside to check it out. Jim Smith talked to a woman with a baby in her arms who he believes is Taylor's nanny. She mentioned the previous break-in.
''I am going to make sure my gun is loaded,'' Jim Smith said. ``We never did have any problems here.''
The shooting happened at Taylor's four-bedroom, four-bath house, which he bought in 2005, according to the county's property appraiser's website. The one-story, pale yellow house is protected by a white wall with black gates, and a buzzer controls access.
Lt. Nancy Perez, a spokeswoman with the Miami-Dade Police Department, said police have been unable to talk to Taylor.
Taylor, a Gulliver Preparatory School graduate, is in his fourth season with the Redskins.
In 2004 he was the fifth pick overall by the Redskins as one of their starting safeties after a stellar career at the University of Miami. He signed a seven-year, $18 million contract. His junior year at UM he led the Big East conference and was second in the nation in interceptions with nine.
He was an All-American, Thorpe Award finalist and Big East Defensive Player of the Year during his UM career.
He suffered a sprained right knee on Nov. 11 against the Philadelphia Eagles, an injury that had sidelined him indefinitely. The Redskins played the Buccaneers in Tampa Sunday.
Redskins owner Dan Snyder running back Clinton Portis, vice president of football operations Vinny Cerrato and trainer Bubba Tyer were all flying on the owner's plane to Miami.
''Our hearts and prayers go out to Sean and his family,'' Snyder said. ''We appreciate very, very much the outcry of support.'' Redskins receiver Keenan McCardell told the Washington Post: ``Everybody around here is just stunned. We're all stunned. We're numb right now.''
UM also weighed in, saying ``this is a terrible thing to have happened to a great person, and our thoughts and prayers go out to his family, friends and teammates.''
Taylor is no stranger to controversy.
He was arrested in June 2005 for waving a gun at a group of people he believed had stolen his all terrain vehicle. Felony charges were dropped, but he eventually pleaded no contest to misdemeanor assault and battery. Sharpstein said Taylor was actually the victim and that charges should never have been filed against him.
After the plea, Ryan Lee Hill, one of the men in front of whom Taylor allegedly waved a gun, sued Taylor, claiming Taylor hit him repeatedly in a fight and brandished a gun at him. Because of injuries he supposedly received during the fight, including bruises to his body, Hill lost wages and incurred medical expenses.
In the lawsuit, which according to court files is still active, Hill claims Taylor and some friends went looking for people who allegedly stole his all terrain vehicles. According to the suit, Taylor found Hill, pummeled him with his fists and called him a thief. Taylor then left, returned with more friends and pointed an assault rifle at Hill.
''Totally garbage and untrue,'' Sharpstein said of Hill's account in an interview Monday.
After the fight, Taylor, his friend, Michael McFarlane, and a man named Charles Caughman went to McFarlane's house in the West Perrine neighborhood where Taylor's ATVs were stolen from, according to court records of the incident. Soon afterward, a silver car pulled up to McFarlane's house and someone opened fire, peppering Taylor's GMC Yukon Denali with bullets. Police found 27 bullet casings outside, at least 15 shots hit Taylor's car. No one was hit, and the shooting remains unsolved.
McFarlane has since moved out of the small ranch home on Southwest 104th Avenue that was besieged by bullets in June 2005. The current renter on Monday showed a visitor bullet holes that remain over a front window.
''I hope whoever did that doesn't come back here looking for him,'' said the resident, who asked not to be identified because of fear of retribution from Taylor's enemies.
Hill still lives a few blocks down from McFarlane's old shot-up house. But Hill was not home on Monday afternoon.
Reached Monday on his cellphone in Baltimore, Caughman said he didn't want to talk about that day. He said he was friends with Taylor but hadn't talked to him recently. He was surprised to learn about Monday's shooting.
''I just saw it on SportsCenter,'' Caughman said. ``It's crazy.''
Taylor's father, Pedro Taylor, the police chief of Florida City, could not be reached for comment. But a woman who answered the phone in his office said he was at the hospital awaiting the result of his son's surgery.
''There were a number of people who were jealous of Sean's success,'' Sharpstein said.
Before he was drafted, he was rebuked by the NFL for leaving the league's mandatory rookie symposium early, and drew a $25,000 fine.
Taylor has made a living jarring receivers in the secondary for the Redskins and his jersey remains as popular as ever with Hurricanes fans.
Taylor's cousin, Florida State safety Anthony Leon, said Taylor was trying to shed some trouble-making friends he grew up with in Florida City. Leon, who said he spent his morning crying and praying from his dorm room in Tallahassee, said Taylor had ``started to calm down.''
''He's been trying to stay away from bad company -- especially for his daughter's sake,'' Leon said. ``Sean wasn't a bad guy at all. He's got his personality on the football field and off it. All he was trying to do was protect his family. And they shot him.''
Miami Herald staff writers Patricia Mazzei, Manny Navarro, Evan Benn and Susannah Nesmith and the Associated Press contributed to this report.