Broncos mourn Williams; search for killer continues

Updated: January 2, 2007, 7:45 PM ET
Associated Press

DENVER -- Police asked for help finding Darrent Williams' killer Tuesday as coaches and teammates gathered at Broncos headquarters to honor the 24-year-old player gunned down after a New Year's Eve party.

Darrent Williams: 1982-2007
Darrent Williams
An emotional Tatum Bell reacted to the death of teammate Darrent Williams on Cold Pizza. Bell was also Williams' teammate at Oklahoma State.
• To watch, click here. ESPN Video
Mike Evans of KKFN Radio in Denver, who used to host a radio show with Williams, tells who the Broncos starting right cornerback was as a person.
• To listen, click here.
Statement from Broncos coach Mike Shanahan:
"Losing a fine young man such as Darrent Williams leaves me speechless with sadness. We all know that Darrent was an excellent player, but as a person, he was a first-class young man who brightened every room with his smile, attitude and personality. I cannot express how heartsick I feel at this loss."
• For more reaction to Williams' death, click here.

"Darrent was a guy that was always upbeat, always had a smile and he was a fierce competitor," said Broncos coach Mike Shanahan, fighting back tears.

Williams was killed in a drive-by shooting early Monday, hours after the Broncos were eliminated from playoff contention.

"We're working around the clock on this investigation," police spokesman Sonny Jackson said. "It's a situation where anyone who knows what happened or has any information, we'd love to hear."

Jackson said the police had not identified any suspects, and were unsure of the nature of the taunts that they believe sparked an altercation at a night club before the shooting that also wounded two other people.

Police were searching for a white Suburban or Tahoe with dark-tinted windows.

Williams sustained a single gunshot wound to the neck, according to Robert Whitmore, chief medical examiner in the county coroner's office.

The team will hold a private memorial Wednesday at Bronco headquarters so that Williams' teammates can tell his family what he meant to them. The team also will fly together to Fort Worth, Texas, for Williams' funeral on Saturday.

"He's in a better place right now," Shanahan said, choking up at a news conference. "It's hard to understand right now. He's a good man. He's up in heaven right now."

Receiver Javon Walker was with Williams in the limousine when he was killed and was one of several Broncos who met with professional counselors the team brought in.

"He just went through a tragic experience," Shanahan said. "A lot of times when somebody has that happen to them, they wonder why it [wasn't them]. That's just human nature and obviously the counselors are talking with him about that. It's a process. It takes some time."

Instead of the usual exit interviews and locker clean out Tuesday, the team gathered to cope with Williams' death.

"Today wasn't about football or the offseason or the future," safety Nick Ferguson said. "Today was to grieve and remember the good things about him. … Today we joked, laughed and embraced a lot, what a family does."

Fans built a makeshift memorial of flowers, photos, teddy bears and footballs outside team headquarters, one of three around the city. There were also memorials at the scene of the shooting and at Invesco Field.

Rudy Leyva of Laredo, Texas, was given a trip to the Broncos' season finale against San Francisco as a Christmas present from his girlfriend, Jessica Cerda. While at the game he caught a giveaway T-shirt in the stands and got Williams to sign it following the Broncos' loss.

Leyva put flowers around the memorial and left his orange rosary beads hanging from a snow-covered Christmas wreath.

"I cried at the loss and then cried when I found out he died," Leyva said. "It was just devastating."

Sidney Roll of Colorado Springs brought up her two grandchildren, Manhattan Trull, 4, and Gage Trull, 3, to pay final respects to Williams, who was Manhattan's favorite player.

"She saw him at a preseason game [against Houston] and wanted to give him a hug," Roll said. "I told her these guys don't have time to hug you. He waved her over [in the parking lot after the game] and gave her a hug. She even named her fish "Bling" after him, because he was wearing jewelry."

The club had advertised a New Year's Eve event celebrating the birthday of Denver Nuggets basketball player Kenyon Martin. The Nuggets canceled practice Monday.

Martin declined to comment Tuesday.

"I really feel for the Broncos and their organization," said center Marcus Camby, who didn't attend the party. "Knowing Darrent personally, I really feel for his kids. He was a good friend."

Williams had a 7-year-old son and 4-year-old daughter who live in Fort Worth. A memorial fund was set up in their honor.

A viewing was scheduled Friday evening at the Great Commission Baptist Church in Fort Worth, with the funeral scheduled for Saturday at the same church, Williams' agent Jeff Griffin said.

"It's always tough anytime you deal with somebody that's part of your family," Shanahan said. "Just a class young man that I cared an awful lot for. It's tough."

Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press