Memphis Tigers Prepare for Game as Police Hunt Slain Teammate's Killers
MEMPHIS, Tenn. – The University of Memphis football team will play a game Tuesday night despite one of its players being fatally shot on Sunday.
Police are still searching for suspects in the slaying of Taylor Bradford, 21, shot near a university housing complex Sunday at around 9:45 p.m. He crashed the car he was driving into a tree a short distance from where he was shot, police said.
The Memphis Tigers host Marshall University on Tuesday night, and a moment of silence was planned before the game. Monday afternoon, several football players and others tied a large red ribbon to the tree Bradford struck with his car and put up a large poster board for friends and acquaintances to leave personal notes.
"Our entire football team is deeply saddened by the loss of Taylor," head coach Tommy West said. "He was well respected and a popular member of our team."
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Police Director Larry Godwin said witnesses saw two unidentified men running from the area where investigators believe the shooting occurred and other witnesses reported hearing gunfire.
Police were responding to a car crash when Bradford was found slumped over in the vehicle on a campus street about 200 yards from his apartment complex.
"It wasn't until the paramedics got there that they determined there was a possible gunshot wound," said Bruce Harber, director of university police.
Godwin said a motive for the shooting had not been determined and police had no suspects identified.
"We really don't know whether it was a random act or whether or not this individual was targeted," he said.
Authorities quickly determined Bradford's killers were not a threat to other students but still banned all outsiders from campus housing, said Shirley Raines, university president.
In an e-mail alert to faculty, students and staff at 3:40 a.m. Monday, the university said "the initial investigation indicates this was an act directed specifically toward the victim and was not a random act of violence."
The university decided to cancel classes, anyway.
"We feel like the campus is safe, but we'd rather err on the side of safety than not," said spokesman Curt Guenther.
Bradford, a 5-foot-11, 300-pound defensive lineman, was a junior who transferred to Memphis after two seasons at Samford University in Birmingham, Ala.
Bradford, a resident of Nashville, transferred to Memphis in 2006 and was scheduled to begin playing for the Tigers this season.
He lettered in three sports at Antioch High School in Nashville, and held school records in shot-put and discus.
Godwin said investigators had no evidence that Bradford was involved in illegal activity or brought the attack on himself.
"Everything I've heard about him ... he was just a good kid," Godwin said.
Police said they had not determined if Bradford was inside or outside his car when he was shot. He was apparently shot once, police said, though a report from the medical examiner was still pending.
In other campus violence, a University of Massachusetts-Amherst football player was listed in fair condition Monday after being stabbed in a fight on campus over the weekend. Freshman Johnny Evans, 18, of Durham, N.C., was taken to Baystate Medical Center in Springfield with a stab wound to the buttocks and less-serious cuts, school officials said.
Evans was injured in one of two fights that broke out early Sunday when hundreds of students were leaving the Student Union Building after a dance. A second student also was injured, but refused medical attention. No arrests had been made as of Monday, and police continued to investigate what caused the fights.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.