By Amy Shipley and Peter Whoriskey
Washington Post Staff Writers
Thursday, November 29, 2007
MIAMI, Nov. 28 -- Miami-Dade police said Wednesday they have no suspects in the Sean Taylor murder investigation and appealed for assistance from the public in solving the crime, saying evidence collected so far indicates that the Washington Redskins safety was a random victim of a botched burglary attempt.
Police have "no reason" to think the incident was anything other than an attempted burglary, one likely involving more than one intruder, Miami-Dade Police Department Director Robert Parker said at a news conference at police headquarters.
"There is nothing that indicates that this was something that involved Sean," Parker said. "We're more along the lines, or the thought process, that this was a random occurrence."
Authorities have offered few details about the investigation since Taylor was shot in his Miami area home early Monday, which is highly unusual for such a high-profile case. The absence of official information helped fuel speculation that the incident was not random.
A childhood friend of Taylor's, Arizona Cardinals cornerback Antrel Rolle, said Wednesday that Taylor had told him he was afraid every time he returned to the area, where the two grew up and played football together at the University of Miami.
"This was not the first incident," Rolle told reporters in Arizona. "They've been targeting him for three years now."
Rolle, who said he had not spoken to Taylor in a while, did not offer any specifics, but added, "Sean, he had a large group of friends, and he no longer hung out with those friends, so you never know where this came from."
A former federal prosecutor in Miami, who is not involved in the Taylor case, said the circumstances of Taylor's death were "very strange -- obviously very tragic, but very strange."
"It doesn't look like a hit because it's not professional enough . . . but it doesn't smell like a robbery," attorney David Buckner said in an interview. "If I had to put my money on something, I'd say it was somebody with a grudge against him."
Miami-Dade police spokeswoman Nelda Fonticella said: "There's been a lot of speculation, a lot of opinions being put out there that we are not going to address. We have one objective: to investigate this case fairly and make an arrest. . . . We're not going to be playing he-said, she-said. There are a lot of people making remarks that don't merit a response."
Taylor's funeral was scheduled for 11 a.m. Monday at a 5,000-seat arena on the campus of Florida International University in western Miami. It will be open to the public, and the entire Redskins organization and players from other NFL teams are expected to attend, according to an FIU spokesman.
The University of Miami, Taylor's alma mater, could not be the site of the funeral because of scheduling problems with the campus arena, a university spokesman said. "It is unfortunate that it could not be held on our campus," University of Miami Sports Information Director Mark Pray said in an e-mail.
Taylor, 24, was gunned down in his bedroom after he and his girlfriend were awakened by noise in the living room of Taylor's house in an upscale village just south of Miami early Monday.
In his remarks to reporters, Parker said the case involved a "bona-fide crime scene" that "was not made up or concocted." He said that it was likely that more than one person broke into Taylor's house and that he was "concerned" no arrests had been made. A reward of $1,000 has been offered for information that results in an arrest.
"There's some information that's known by members of the public that's not yet made its way to law enforcement," he said.
Lt. Nancy Perez, a Miami-Dade police spokeswoman, said Taylor's wealth and the fact he would not be expected to be in the Miami area during the NFL season fit with the theory that he was not specifically targeted. Taylor, who had missed two games because of an injury, had been excused from Sunday's Redskins game in Tampa.
Perez cautioned that the investigation was ongoing and that "there is no set theory." She also said "cat burglars," who burglarize homes at night, often are considered more dangerous than daytime thieves.
"Cat burglars are very, very dangerous," she said. "They're not like burglars in the daytime. They know there's a 50-50 chance someone might be home."
She said police are continuing to look at similarities between a Nov. 17 break-in at Taylor's house in which someone pried open a window, rifled through drawers and left a kitchen knife on a bed.
Taylor's attorney, Richard Sharpstein, said the intruder or intruders kicked in the bedroom door Monday morning and fired twice, striking Taylor -- who had grabbed a machete from under the bed -- in the femoral artery while his high school sweetheart, Jackie Garcia, cowered on the bed with their 18-month-old daughter.
Parker said police found no evidence that phone lines had been cut, as Sharpstein had told reporters in interviews before Taylor's death in a Miami hospital early Tuesday morning. Sharpstein later clarified that Garcia had difficulty using the home phone, so used her cellphone to call 911 instead.
Taylor did not have his burglar alarm engaged but had put hurricane shutters on all of his windows, Sharpstein said Wednesday during a chat on washingtonpost.com.
"The home was equipped with a burglar alarm which was not turned on the night of the incident," Sharpstein said. "Sean did, however, put the hurricane shutters down on all windows. It's too little too late, but I certainly would've told him to engage his alarm at all times at night and after the first burglary he probably should've had private security patrolling. This, of course, is hindsight."