Officials: Student Athlete Shot to Death Was Targeted

Police are searching for multiple suspects in the case of a University of Memphis football player who was gunned down Sunday night, university officials said Monday.

University president Shirley Raines said witnesses told police they saw more than one person leaving the scene who could have been involved.

"This was an act directed specifically toward the victim and it was not a random act of violence," she said.

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Taylor Bradford, 21, was shot near a university housing complex about 9:45 p.m. Sunday and then crashed a car he was driving into a tree a short distance away on campus, officials said.

"We found him with a bullet wound to the body and the ambulance took him to the hospital where he was pronounced (dead)," said Roger Prewitt, a Memphis Police inspector.

Detectives investigating the shooting received reports of gunfire in a parking lot of the housing complex about 200 yards from where Bradford was found, police spokeswoman Monique Martin said.

Homicide detectives were unsure of a motive for the shooting and had no immediate suspects, she said.

"That's all still under investigation," she said.

Bradford, a 5-foot-11, 300-pound defensive lineman on the university's football team, was a junior who transferred to Memphis after two seasons at Samford University in Birmingham, Ala.

University officials closed residence halls on campus temporarily before police learned that the shooting was likely personal and there was no indication that other students were in danger, spokesman Curt Gunther said.

In an e-mail alert sent to faculty, staff and students at 3:40 a.m. Monday, officials wrote that "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 Monday, although police believe the person or persons involved in the shooting left the campus immediately.

"We feel like the campus is safe, but we'd rather err on the safety than not," Gunther said.

The school's administrative and athletic officials met Monday morning to discuss the shooting.

The Memphis Tigers host Marshall University's Thundering Herd Tuesday night. A moment of silence was planned before the game.

"Our entire football team is deeply saddened by the loss of Taylor," head coach Tommy West said in a statement. "He was well respected and a popular member of our team. Our thoughts and prayers go out to his family."

Bradford, a resident of Nashville, transferred to Memphis in 2006 and was on the roster for this season, but had not yet played in a game this year.

Bradford lettered in three sports at Antioch High School in Nashville, and held school records in shotput and discus.

The University of Memphis had 20,562 students enrolled for last fall, according to its Web site.

The school was founded in 1912 as West Tennessee State Normal School and was renamed Memphis State College in 1941. It became Memphis State University in 1957, two years before it admitted its first black students. It was renamed the University of Memphis in 1994.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.