By Amy Shipley and Jason La Canfora
Washington Post Staff Writers
Tuesday, November 27, 2007
MIAMI, Nov. 26 -- Washington Redskins safety Sean Taylor remained in critical condition in a Miami hospital Monday night after being shot early in the morning in his Miami home.
Taylor squeezed a doctor's hand and made facial expressions early in the evening, Redskins officials and a family friend said, providing some hope after he emerged from seven hours of surgery at Jackson Memorial Hospital that left him "unresponsive and unconscious" and doctors fearing possible brain injury or death, according to Taylor's attorney, Richard Sharpstein.
"He's doing better than when they first brought him to the hospital," said Donald Walker, who identified himself as a friend of Taylor's mother, in a telephone interview Monday night. "He's unconscious, but he's somewhat responsive, I guess you could say that. When the doctor asked him to squeeze his hand, he did it."
Taylor, 24, confronted one or more intruders early Monday morning at the bedroom door of the house he shares with his fiancee and 18-month-old daughter, and was shot in the upper thigh near the femoral artery, Sharpstein said. The fiancee and child were uninjured, but Taylor lost significant amounts of blood and received a number of transfusions, according to Sharpstein and a source at the hospital.
No further surgical procedures were planned for Taylor, who was placed in intensive care, but doctors expressed concern that 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.
"We'd heard [about the dire situation] and what they told us was to hope for a miracle," said Redskins vice president of football operations Vinny Cerrato, who flew to Miami with Redskins owner Daniel Snyder, running back Clinton Portis and other team officials on Snyder's private jet.
News of Taylor's situation spread quickly through Redskins Park, the team's training facility in Ashburn. 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.
Miami-Dade police responded to a 911 call at about 1:40 a.m. Monday at his home in an upscale suburb known as Palmetto Bay, a police spokesman said. Taylor was airlifted to the hospital's trauma unit.
No arrests were made. In a statement, Miami-Dade police said a preliminary investigation indicated that Taylor had been shot by an intruder, but that the investigation was not complete.
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.
Just before Monday's shooting, Taylor was awakened by a noise in his living room, Sharpstein said. As the shooter or shooters approached Taylor's bedroom, he reached for a machete or other form of knife he keeps nearby in case of emergency, and two shots were fired, one striking his leg in the groin area.
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.
About 30 of Taylor's friends and family kept vigil in the trauma center waiting room throughout the day, 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.
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.
Snyder made brief remarks to reporters at Redskins Park before flying to Miami. "On behalf of the Redskins -- the players and everyone here at the Redskins -- our hearts and prayers go out to Sean and his family," Snyder said.
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.