Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, November 28, 2007 12:00 PM
Washington Post staff writer Les Carpenter was online from Miami, Fla., on Wednesday, Nov. 28, at Noon ET to discuss the latest reports and developments in the death of Redskins safety Sean Taylor.
A transcript follows.
Les Carpenter: Good afternoon. I think everyone is still stunned by what has happened down here in Miami. There are lots of unanswered questions and I fear they could remain that way for some time.
Toronto, Canada: What do you know about Sean's next to last trip to Florida? Back on Nov 19th.
Les Carpenter: nothing, I'm sorry.
Chevy Chase, Md.: Given the sequence of events these past few years in Sean Taylor's life, I have some trouble understanding why the Miami house did not have an alarm system, or if it did, why it was not operative? And since the Redskins organization seems to control a lot of aspects of a player's life (as is understandable), why did the Redskins management not know about this aspect? Any comment?
Les Carpenter: I asked that question of his family. A cousin who was probably one of the closest people to him and spent a significant amount of time at the house said there was not a system and said they had joked about that fact. When I asked him why he said Sean felt safe in the neighborhood. I believe he had at one time a pit bull because some neighbors talked about the pit bulls occasionally breaking loose and getting outside the fence. Maybe he felt that was security enough.
You are right the NFL and its teams generally have a good handle on their players' lives and because Sean had been involved in some high profile incidents you would think NFL security was probably aware of his surroundings. But I'm not sure the team would know anything about a security system. That might be too small a detail.
From what I hear he did not tell the team he was coming to Miami last weekend, flying down after a team meeting on Saturday to be with his girlfriend and child and also to have his leg checked out.
Bethesda, Md.: This might not be the right chat but I am trying to find out more about Sean Taylor's life when he was younger. There is a lot of talk about him running with the wrong crowd, not being able to leave the streets behind, growing up in a violent world, etc. But it seems he grew up in middle class with a father who was a police chief and he went to a private high school. I don't understand?
Les Carpenter: It's a great question, I think a lot of people don't really understand. From what family members have told me, he would spend his weeknights at his father's home in a middle to upper-middle class section of Dade County south of Miami and spend his weekends at his mother's home farther south near Homestead. Apparently some of the friends near Homestead were the influences that pulled him down. His life here was really a study in contrasts: he went to a fancy private high school with wealthy classmates, had solid friends and family around him, was -- by all accounts -- a good student, very respectful but for some reason he couldn't detach himself from people who were bad influences on him. Friends and family talked to him repeatedly about it and they said he had really been able to cut those people off in recent months.
San Francisco, Calif.: Since you are on the ground in the Miami area, what can you tell us about the police response? From your observation, do you think they are they going above and beyond to bring their best efforts to the case?
Les Carpenter: I would think so. Remember his father is police chief of a community inside Dade County. I'm sure it will be treated almost as if a policeman himself had been shot. The trouble is trying to break through a wall of silence. Remember the shooting of the University of Miami player last year remains unsolved. Sometimes the best way these things get solved is if the reward for information gets so large someone will break and begin talking.
Washington, D.C.: Did the shooting draw from the dilemma in 2005?
Les Carpenter: No one seems to know (or is not saying publicly). I was in a small press gathering with a police spokesman yesterday and the question was asked repeatedly. All the police will say is they are looking at everything which would probably include that incident.
Rockville, Md.: Is it true that Portis will wear #21 for the rest of the season? Will they retire his number?
Les Carpenter: I was not at the father's house when Clinton was there yesterday so I don't know.
Charlottesville, Va.: As far as we can tell, Sean was killed defending his fiance and child in his own bedroom in a suburban community. Do you feel the "this is not unexpected due to his past" attitude that was in several columns yesterday and today is somewhat inappropriate until we know more about what happened?
Les Carpenter: I think it's natural for people to speculate. A writer/talk show host down here used the phrase "the media machine demands to be fed" and that is probably a solid description of a story like this. Anytime someone has been involved in a violent incident in the past people are going to draw conclusions. That's human nature.
The problem with this case is there is so little public information. Usually doctors will be made available and the police will release descriptions of suspects. But I think the combination of his high profile status, his family's distrust of the media and his father's understanding of the system has allowed them to close those normal paths of information.
Chesapeake Beach, Md.: Any idea when the funeral arrangements will be announced?
Les Carpenter: no, I have heard Monday but I don't know if that's true.
San Francisco, Calif.: Hi Les, compliments on your excellent story today describing the timeline of events and the current scene in South Florida. Do you know if Sean reported last week's break-in at the time it occurred, or is the prior break-in just coming to the attention of police now, after Sean's death? Did anyone give you any background about why Sean was hesitant to go to the police a couple years ago when the ATV incident occurred?
washingtonpost.com: After Desperate Attempt to Save a Life, A Struggle to Understand Its Violent End ( Post, Nov. 28)
Les Carpenter: Thanks. I asked that very question about the previous break-in to police yesterday and was told a police report had been made at the time so, yes, someone would have had to report the previous incident.
Washington, D.C.: Does the University of Miami seem to be as saddened by this tragedy as the Washington Redskins?
Is University of Miami planning any tributes?
Les Carpenter: I think so but I haven't been by there. My path between the hospital and Sean's house takes me right near the U but there hasn't been time to stop by. Randy Shannon, the football coach and Sean's old defensive coordinator, seemed testy in today's papers about the perception of Miami as a "thug school" for want of a better term. The team's reputation has dominated conversation down here, especially given some of the recent shootings/deaths.
Pedro Taylor did say the school's president Donna Shalala had been very supportive on Monday and took time to thank her publicly.
Rockville, Md.: Les,
We have seen and heard from Sean's dad, but where is his mom?
Les Carpenter: I'm not sure. I've asked that question of people and the general reply was that no one had seen her. She may have been around the hospital on Monday evening, I just don't know what she looks like. I also did not go out to her house on Tuesday.
Washington, D.C.: I remember during the Chandra Levy case how there was a backlash from the relatives of victims of other unsolved crimes. They were angry that resources were being pulled off of their investigations, and that their crimes had never received anything similar in terms of attention. How long before the Miami-Dade police are back-pedaling, saying that this crime is being treated no differently than any other homicide (as Chief Ramsey famously and preposterously said during the Levy investigation)?
Les Carpenter: Remember Pedro Taylor is a prominent police figure in Dade County I don't see police pulling back.
Leesburg, Va.: I have yet to hear any information on whether the neighborhood where Sean's house was located had a string, or history of burglaries or whether the two that occurred at his home were isolated at all?
Les Carpenter: The police have been asked that question several times and they say they are working on the answer. I talked to a few neighbors and nobody mentioned any problems with robberies. They all said the area was very safe and nothing ever happened around there. My guess would be that if there was a string of robberies in the area and the media was gathered in the street people would be running out of their houses to demand better police protection.
Alexandria, Va.: Hi Les,
Let me first state that my heart goes to Sean's immediate family, his teammates, the entire Redskins organization and the fans. Although not a Redskins fan myself-I understand completely what a senseless act of violence whoever was responsible for his death.
My question; allegedly Sean's house had a previously reported attempted break in over a week ago. Why wasn't anything by the authorities at that time and could that have changed the entire outcome regarding his murder yesterday?
Les Carpenter: I think you may have dropped a word in your question. I presume you are asking why the police didn't do anything after the last break-in. From what I gather they were investigating it. The report calls that incident a "burglary" though I'm not sure anything was stolen.
Lancaster, Ohio: What was the status of the relationship with the girlfriend/fiancee? Is there any reason to speculate on potential that this could be a triangle type situation? Could the location of the shot to the groin mean anything?
Les Carpenter: As of now no one from the police or family is speculating on any motive. But no one has given any indication of that possibility.
CSI Miami: Given the medical response team went in, treated and then evacuated him, how much evidence was compromised in the chaos?
Did a police unit also respond with the ambulance?
Les Carpenter: I'm not sure about how much evidence was compromised. I was outside the house yesterday and you could see detectives spending a great deal of time on the perimeter wall the intruder/intruders apparently scaled. My guess is they have plenty of evidence that paramedics would not have touched.
I only have an accounting of the fire response. In Dade County 911 calls go to a police dispatcher first and then to a fire dispatcher. The call was made at 1:46. Fire/rescue was notified at 1:47
Bowie, Md.: Regarding last week's break-in: Taylor's mother reported the break-in when she came to the house (she was staying there). The Miami Herald posted the police report on its Web site yesterday.
Les Carpenter: thank you I will post this
Annapolis, Md.: Les,
Great article today. Interesting that this case will play out in Miami, home to the glamorous "CSI: Miami." Unfortunately, these cases rarely fit together as nicely as the television show. A knife left on the bed? Horatio would figure out where and when the knife was bought, and trace it back to the killer. I'm afraid we'll never know who killed Sean Taylor. Who killed Tupac? We still don't know.
Les Carpenter: Thanks for the note. There is a surreal aspect to this. I was thinking about that standing outside the house yesterday. It has all the elements of a television mystery. But you are right these cases are rarely solved quickly in real life. If there is a strong code of silence among the people who know who did this we may never know.
Woodbridge, Va.: Has there been any talk of moving the game next Thursday to the following Sunday? To expect the team to play 2 games in 5 days with a funeral in between it just too much.
Les Carpenter: My guess is the league would not do that. I can't see it moving a national TV game of that magnitude for something other than an extreme weather event that would threaten the lives of fans -- like a hurricane.
Maryland: This is truly a tragedy! My question, given that this is a high profile case, "Why are the police being so mum?" Sean's lawyer/friend seems to be providing all the scenarios. Nothing seems to be coming from the police!
Les Carpenter: As I mentioned before this seems a little unusual. But Sean's family has always been a little media-shy and with Pedro Taylor being involved in the police department he has an understanding of the system that another family might not possess. In other words, a family unsophisticated in police affairs would not know to tell the police "we don't want information made public."
The police I have talked to say they just don't have anything new to give.
Rockville, Md.: What's the story on Richard Sharpstein? I see he's doing a chat later this afternoon, and he's pretty much been everywhere, talking, giving insights, providing information. Is he really a close family friend (and, if so, why is he an ex-attorney)or someone who someone who is relishing his chance to be in the spotlight?
Les Carpenter: It's probably a good question to direct to him
Washington, D.C.: As the Redskin players struggle to make sense of this tragedy, it would be a good idea for Joe Gibbs to call St. Louis Cardinals manager Tony LaRussa to compare notes. In the summer of 2002, the Cardinals' best pitcher, Darrell Kyle, died in his sleep in a Chicago hotel room, hours before he was to start a game against the Cubs. He was loved and revered by his teammates and a mentor to younger players. LaRussa has to wrestle with potential guilt for not being aware of Kyle's health problems, and to rally the team so they could finish the season. He did just as good a job doing this as he does, year in and year out, managing winning baseball.
Les Carpenter: I think the harder thing for everyone to deal with here is the fact that Sean was murdered in his home. This wasn't a car accident or a heart attack -- someone came into his house, where he should feel safe and killed him. There really isn't a precedent for something like this.
Rockville, Md..: Les,
I know the talk before this tragedy involved speculation regarding Joe Gibbs staying or leaving. I know it is way too early to worry about this, but I hope he does stay. His genuine compassion is far more important to me as a fan than any on the field performance we will see over these next 5 games.
Les Carpenter: The next few days are going to seem so strange as the Redskins try to return to football. I was talking with another writer today and we wondered what that first practice this afternoon will be like without Sean Taylor. It will be interesting to see how these next few weeks affect the players and coaches. Sometimes it draws them closer to the game, sometimes it pushes them away and toward other things.
Norfolk, Va.: I read that Taylor went for a 30 mile bike ride after he got to Miami. Wasn't he rehabbing a knee injury? A 30-mile bike ride on a bad knee? Isn't that weird?
Les Carpenter: The ground here is pretty flat. When the Redskins announced that fact on Monday night the tone was one of pride, that they felt Sean was doing something he was supposed to be doing.
Washington, D.C.: I read the Discussions section of the "Express" Newspaper today, November 28, 2007, and felt compelled to reply to one of the comments that I read regarding Sean Taylor. Basically the guy said the Sean Taylor is not a saint, and that he spit on another player. And that we shouldn't glorify Sean Taylor too much.
In response to that I'd like to say this:
The fact that Sean Taylor has such a tainted past and is still able to still have so much respect, love, and admiration from his fans, his peers, and his family says a lot about Sean. Furthermore, everyone makes mistakes. We're so quick to judge people based on the actions that they make, not considering that we don't know where people come from, or what kind of things that they had to deal with in their lives that makes them do the things that they do (good or bad).
More than that, Sean had changed for the better, and was doing the right thing on the field and at home. His past is just that -- his past. Yes he did spit on somebody, and had a brush with the law and all those things. But that still doesn't mean that he deserved for someone to come into his home, and try to take what he has worked hard for and earned. That doesn't mean that he deserved his light to be taken away from him.
No, he's not a saint. But I'll tell you what he is...He's somebody's son, somebody's father, somebody's hero and last but not least...he's a human being.
A true Sean Taylor Fan (May he rest in peace).
Les Carpenter: Thanks, I will post your comment
Washington, D.C.: Hi Les,
Very grim question: If robbery was the motive, why did the intruders not shoot at Sean's fiancee (who could potentially identify the intruder)? And thank goodness she and the baby were okay! I feel so bad, especially for the baby....
Les Carpenter: Again, no one seems to know. Or is not saying. Family members told me they believe the intruder/intruders did not know Sean was there and were surprised when he confronted them. At least one person in the family said he thought the shooter/shooters were scared to see Taylor holding a machete.
Ft. Lauderdale, Fla.: There is no way I don't believe this was a pre-meditated murder. If it was a typical Miami home invasion, they would have killed everyone and taken anything that wasn't nailed down. What do you think?
Les Carpenter: Its an easy conclusion to draw, but without more public evidence you don't know.
Arlington, Va. - Please stop calling him a hero: This is the most overused word in society today. Heroes are people like my friend who died in Iraq. Heroes are policeman and firefighters and men and women in the military. Heroes are not professional athletes with a troubled past both on and off the field. Why do we insist on deifying people once they pass? I feel sorry for Sean's family and hope God watches over his daughter but that doesn't mean we need to engage in revisionist history when remembering him.
Les Carpenter: I will post your comment
Silver Spring, Md.: Les, Is there a reward being offered for information on Taylor's killing? If so have the Redskins put money towards the reward? If not, do they have plans to?
Les Carpenter: I have not heard of a reward yet. If an announcement was made in the last hour or two I would not know. I'm back in my hotel now.
D.C.: When will the 911 tape be released?
Les Carpenter: I don't know.
Les Carpenter: I need to run. Thank you for your questions. I have received several wondering what plans the Redskins have for memorials and what they will do to honor him. Since I am in Miami I'm too removed from what is going on in Washington. check Jason LaCanfora's Redskins Insider and washingtonpost.com for updates. I don't know if other D.C. teams have plans and the only thing I have heard that the NFL is planning to do is have a moment of silence at its games on Sunday.
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