Seeking Answers

After Desperate Attempt to Save a Life, A Struggle to Understand Its Violent End

Jazmin Taylor, 14, the sister of Sean Taylor, was joined by relatives and friends at the home of their father, Pedro.
Jazmin Taylor, 14, the sister of Sean Taylor, was joined by relatives and friends at the home of their father, Pedro. (By Carl Juste -- Miami Herald)
By Les Carpenter
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, November 28, 2007

PALMETTO BAY, Fla., Nov. 27 -- At 1:47 a.m. on Monday a call came to the Miami-Dade Fire Rescue Department of a shooting at 18050 Old Cutler Rd. Within seconds, fire department records show, one rescue truck, two fire engines and a fire chief made their way out of the Coral Reef Fire Station on SW 152nd Street and sped southeast toward the sprawling, yellow house not far from the edge of Biscayne Bay.

The race to save Sean Taylor was on.

Nine minutes later, the paramedics were at the house trying to stem the flood of blood that poured from the Washington Redskins safety's leg. He was fading fast. More than 10 minutes had passed since one or more intruders apparently climbed through a bathroom window off a patio in the back of the house, a family member said, and were confronted by Taylor near the rear bedroom where the player, his girlfriend Jackie Garcia and their 18-month old daughter had been sleeping.

Two shots were fired, one of which hit Taylor in the groin, striking his femoral artery.

Ultimately all efforts were futile. Tuesday afternoon, as the reality of Taylor's death settled in among family members, there was sadness, said Emory Williams Jr., Taylor's cousin. Taylor had been working to change his life in recent months after facing a possible prison sentence in 2005, family, friends and teammates said. But just like the paramedics who worked frantically to keep him alive on Monday, it wouldn't be enough. Neither he nor they could save him.

Because rescue helicopters do not have enough space in a residential area to land, the helicopter headed for Our Lady of the Holy Rosary Church at 184th Street and Franjo Road, some two miles from Taylor's house. Taylor was loaded into an ambulance at 2:15 a.m. and rushed to the church parking lot. Somewhere in the process, family members said, his vital signs stopped, meaning he was legally dead. But the paramedics or trauma workers in the medevac were able to revive him.

At 2:27, more than 40 minutes after the first 911 call was made by Garcia, the helicopter took off for Jackson Memorial Hospital, a giant complex just across the Dolphin Expressway from the Orange Bowl where Taylor starred as a safety for the University of Miami. Seven minutes later, the helicopter landed at the hospital, but his prognosis was already grave.

Twice on Monday afternoon Taylor's heart stopped, friends and family members said. Even the hopeful squeezing of a doctor's hand that gave the everybody hope Monday evening faded in the early hours of Tuesday when the player died suddenly at 3:30.

"His body just shut down," Williams said.

As Pedro Taylor went through his son's house Tuesday afternoon, family and friends tried to sort out Sean Taylor's legacy. Understanding his life in his home town has always been a tangle of contrasts.

Taylor played 3 1/2 years in Washington, but his reputation was sealed by a celebrated 2005 incident in suburban Miami during which he waved a gun at a group of men he accused of stealing a pair of all-terrain vehicles he owned. It was an act that led to Taylor's truck being shot up with bullets. And it ultimately led to him facing a felony charge of aggravated assault and a misdemeanor count of battery, which were bargained down to 18 months of probation after a lengthy legal fight that nearly resulted in him spending at least three years in prison.

There were also the fines from the National Football League for missing a mandatory rookie symposium and late hits in games, a DWI charge in Virginia that was dismissed and a petulance that irked coaches and left him with a label of troublemaker.

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