Memphis' campus closed after lineman shot to death

Updated: October 1, 2007, 9:42 PM ET
Associated Press

MEMPHIS, Tenn. -- Classes at the University of Memphis were canceled Monday after a football player was fatally shot on campus, in what school officials said was a targeted attack but city police later said could have been random.

By late Monday afternoon police had not identified any suspects in the slaying of Taylor Bradford, who was shot about 9:45 p.m. Sunday, apparently near a university housing complex.

After the shooting, the 21-year-old junior crashed a car he was driving into a tree. Police said they had not determined whether he was shot before or after he started driving the vehicle.

Police were responding to a car crash when Bradford was found slumped over in the vehicle on a campus street about 200 yards from his apartment complex.

"It wasn't until the paramedics got there that they determined there was a possible gunshot wound," said Bruce Harber, director of university police. He was apparently shot once, police said, though an autopsy was pending.

University President Shirley Raines said authorities quickly determined Bradford's killers were not a threat to other students but still banned all outsiders from campus housing throughout the night.

In an e-mail alert to faculty, students and staff members at 3:40 a.m. Monday, the university said "the initial investigation indicates this was an act directed specifically toward the victim and was not a random act of violence."

The initial investigation indicates this was an act directed specifically toward the victim and was not a random act of violence.

-- E-mail alert from Memphis officials

The university, which is primarily a commuter campus, still decided to cancel classes. The University of Memphis had 20,562 students enrolled for last fall, according to its Web site.

"We feel like the campus is safe, but we'd rather err on the side of safety than not," spokesman Curt Guenther said.

City police, who are handling the case because it is a homicide investigation, expressed less certainty that Bradford had been specifically targeted than university officials did.

City Police Director Larry Godwin said a motive for the shooting had not been determined and police had no suspects identified.

"We really don't know whether it was a random act or whether or not this individual was targeted," he said.

Godwin said witnesses saw two unidentified men running from the area where investigators believe the shooting occurred and other witnesses reported hearing gunfire.

Godwin said investigators had no evidence that Bradford was involved in any illegal activity.

"Everything I've heard about him ... he was just a good kid," Godwin said.

Bradford, a 5-foot-11, 300-pound defensive lineman, was a junior who transferred to Memphis last year after two seasons at Samford University in Birmingham, Ala. The Nashville resident was to have begun playing for the Tigers this season.

Monday afternoon, several football players and others tied a large red ribbon to the tree Bradford struck with his car and put up a large poster board for friends and acquaintances to leave personal notes.

"Our entire football team is deeply saddened by the loss of Taylor," Memphis head coach Tommy West said. "He was well respected and a popular member of our team."

The Memphis Tigers host Marshall University on Tuesday night on ESPN2, and a moment of silence was planned before the game.

Bradford lettered in three sports at Antioch High School in Nashville, and held school records in shot put and discus.

Another student-athlete, Mississippi sprinter Rodney Lydale Lockhart, was found shot to death Saturday at his apartment near the Ole Miss campus in Oxford. His death was being investigated as a homicide.

In another case of campus violence, a University of Massachusetts-Amherst football player was listed in fair condition Monday after being stabbed in a fight on campus over the weekend. Freshman Johnny Evans, 18, of Durham, N.C., was taken to Baystate Medical Center in Springfield with a stab wound to the buttocks and less serious cuts, school officials said.

Evans was injured in one of two fights that broke out early Sunday when hundreds of students were leaving the Student Union Building after a dance. A second student also was injured, but refused medical attention. No arrests had been made as of Monday, and police continued to investigate what caused the fights.


Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press

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