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Memphis' campus closed after lineman shot to death

10/1/2007 - Memphis Tigers

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 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.