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Posted at 03:07 PM ET, 05/02/2012

Junior Seau dies, reportedly of gunshot wound

Junior Seau, a legendary NFL linebacker, was found dead in his Oceanside, Calif., home this afternoon.

Police were called to Seau’s beachfront home at about 9:35 a.m. PDT after a 911 call reported a shooting. His girlfriend, a police spokesman said, found Seau, 43, dead of a gunshot wound to the chest. A handgun was found next to the body, the spokesman said, and the shooting is being investigated as a suicide.

(Update 4:50 p.m.) Greg Bishop of the New York Times reports Seau did not leave a visible note, according to police. Seau’s girlfriend told police she went to the gym Wednesday morning and discovered the body when she returned to the house.

Seau’s mother, in a heart-tugging interview outside his house, tearfully spoke of her son. “I appreciate everybody showing your love,” Luisa Seau said. “I appreciate you guys showing your love to my son. ... I don’t understand who’d do this to my son. Please, please take me and leave my son.”

Seau’s ex-wife, Gina, said he texted her and each of their three children Tuesday to say, “I love you.” The couple divorced in 2002.

“We’re all in shock,” she said. “We’re beyond sad and beyond shocked. The kids and I are just huddled together at home. There is no way to make sense of this. “I hope and pray everyone remembers what a wonderful man he was.”

Shawn Mitchell, the San Diego Chargers’ long-time chaplain, told the Union-Tribune that he was on his way to be with Seau’s family.

“Junior was an icon not only in San Diego but throughout the nation. Of course, this will affect a lot of people, not in the least the children and kids who look up to him,” Mitchell said.

“He had a great impact on many lives. He’s changed my life in many ways, I’m sure.”


Junior Seau received a Volunteer Service Award from President George W. Bush in 2005. (PAUL J.RICHARDS / AFP / Getty Images)
The Chargers later confirmed Seau’s death, saying in a statement: “Everyone at the Chargers is in complete shock and disbelief right now. We ask everyone to stop what they’re doing and send their prayers to Junior and his family.”

Chargers team president Dean Spanos released his own statement after hearing the news.

"I can't put into words how I'm feeling right now. I'm shocked and devastated. Junior was my friend. We all lost a friend today. Junior was an icon in our community. He transcended the game. He wasn't just a football player, he was so much more.”

During a 20-year career, Seau played for his hometown San Diego Chargers for 13 years. He briefly retired, then played for the Miami Dolphins and New England Patriots. He was a 12-time Pro Bowler who was the fifth overall draft pick out of USC in 1990.

In a statement issued Wednesday afternoon, the Patriots expressed their grief:

“We were shocked to hear of the initial reports regarding Junior Seau earlier today and are deeply saddened by the news of his death. We were fortunate to have had Junior join the Patriots in 2006 and are thankful for his many contributions to the team over the next four years. He had a legendary NFL career and his unrivaled passion for the game quickly made him a fan favorite here in New England. This is a sad day for the entire Patriots organization, our coaches and his many Patriots teammates. Our heartfelt thoughts and prayers go out to his family and his many friends who will mourn this loss.”


Junior Seau holds the Lamar Hunt Trophy after helping the Patriots defeat the Chargers in the 2008 AFC championship. (Mike Segar - Reuters)
Seau, who retired in 2009, was hospitalized briefly in 2010 when he drove his SUV off a cliff in California, just hours after he was arrested for allegedly attacking his girlfriend. He said he had fallen asleep at the wheel and was never charged in the incident.

Seau is the eighth member of the 1994 Chargers, who lost to the San Francisco 49ers in the Super Bowl, to die at a young age. Linebacker Lew Bush died of an apparent heart attack last December. Running back Rodney Culver died in a 1996 plane crash; linebacker David Griggs died in a 1995 car crash; linebacker Doug Miller was struck by lightning in 1998; center Curtis Whitley died of an overdose in 2008; defensive end Chris Mims died of an enlarged heart in 2008; and defensive tackle Shawn Lee died of cardiac arrest in 2011.

This is a developing story. Check back for more details.

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By Cindy Boren & Matt Brooks  |  03:07 PM ET, 05/02/2012

 
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