Speculation and Secrecy Cloud Taylor Investigation

By Amy Shipley and Peter Whoriskey
Washington Post Staff Writers
Friday, November 30, 2007; Page A01

MIAMI, Nov. 29 -- Three days after Sean Taylor was fatally shot in his Miami home, family and friends of the Washington Redskins safety struggled Thursday with competing theories about the motives behind the attack but had few tangible clues.

While Taylor's father made arrangements for his wake, and his mother visited the 5,000-seat arena at which his funeral will take place Monday, an array of contradictory statements, a retraction and crime-scene details not fully explained have seeped out from a variety of sources, adding to the mystery over whether Taylor was a random victim or targeted.

Among the questions: Why was Taylor's house burglarized just eight days before the shooting, with the thieves taking virtually nothing and leaving a kitchen knife on a bed? Why was Taylor in Miami again -- without notifying Redskins Coach Joe Gibbs -- after having returned briefly after the first break-in? Why did Monday's intruder or intruders kick in the bedroom door? Why was at least one carrying a gun, which legal experts say is uncommon among burglars because breaking and entering with a firearm carries much harsher minimum sentences? Why did Taylor have a machete in his bedroom?

People close to Taylor on Thursday attempted to counter speculation that he was the intended target of the gunman who burst into his bedroom early Monday morning. They said they believed one or more intruders kicked down Taylor's bedroom door in search of a safe, not Taylor himself, during a break-in in which the Pro Bowl defensive back was shot in the groin.

"They were shocked when they saw somebody there," said Ed Hill, who said he was a cousin and former roommate of Taylor's father. "He really spooked them."

Miami-Dade police said Wednesday they had "no reason" to believe the break-in was anything other than a botched burglary and that the evidence suggested Taylor was a random victim. Even so, Taylor's childhood friend Antrel Rolle, now a cornerback with the Arizona Cardinals, and others have postulated that Taylor was targeted by someone who harbored a grudge.

"This was not the first incident," Rolle said. "They've been targeting him for three years now."

Two of Taylor's closest friends on the Redskins, Santana Moss and Clinton Portis, on Thursday gave credence to Rolle's comments because Taylor had known him since age 6.

"Antrel Rolle and Sean grew up pretty close together," Moss said. "If he knows something that we don't know, then all you can do is respect what he said. I don't know how true it is, but he might know something that we don't know."

Law enforcement observers said the Taylor case was one of the most buttoned-down investigations they had ever encountered in the city and the lack of information has failed to bring clarity to the probe. Thus far, the police work has produced no suspects and no witness description.

There has also been much confusion over several details. Initial reports said the phone line to the house had been cut, forcing Taylor's girlfriend, Jackie Garcia, to call 911 on her cellphone. Miami-Dade police later said they found no evidence the line had been cut.

A cousin said Taylor had no security system at the home. Taylor's attorney, Richard Sharpstein, and others said he had a security system but it was disarmed on the night of the shooting. Taylor's father, the chief of police in nearby Florida City, said he simply didn't know. The police refused to comment, but the question of why a multimillionaire, high-profile athlete did not take greater security measures remained unanswered.

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