Officials think gun-cleaning accident caused Grimsley's death

Updated: February 6, 2008, 7:25 PM ET
ESPN.com news services

HOUSTON -- Former Houston Oilers linebacker John Grimsley was found fatally shot in his suburban Houston home Wednesday, the apparent victim of a gun cleaning accident, an official said.

Fort Bend County Justice of the Peace Joel Clouser said that when Grimsley's wife, who was out of town, was not able to reach her husband Wednesday, she had a neighbor check on him. The neighbor found Grimsley's body on the floor in the dining area.

"It appears it may have been an accident," Clouser said. "He was in the process of cleaning his gun. It appears that he had his dinette table covered with newspapers and he had the tools out to clean the gun with."

Clouser ordered an autopsy to confirm the cause of death. Grimsley was 45.

The Galveston County Medical Examiner's Office was set to perform the autopsy on Thursday, said John Florence, the office's chief investigator.

Officers found Grimsley's body at his home after the neighbor called 911 around 9 a.m.

Clouser said that investigators at first thought Grimsley's death might be either a suicide or a homicide.

"He had no depression problems," Clouser said. "He had just come back from the Super Bowl. He had a lot of friends."

Clouser said the neighbor who found Grimsley's body had keys to his home.

Grimsley played 10 seasons in the NFL.

He was drafted by Houston in 1984 and played with the Oilers until 1990. In 1991, he was traded to the Miami Dolphins and stayed there until he retired in 1993.

He made the Pro Bowl in 1988 and was an All-Pro selection in 1989.

"I don't know all of the details at this point, but it is certainly terrible news," Titans owner Bud Adams said in a statement. "John was a fine player for us and part of the group that helped rebuild the Oilers into a perennial playoff team in the late 80's and early 90's. Our thoughts are with his family and friends during this difficult time."

Grimsley was born in Canton, Ohio, and went to the University of Kentucky.

He was set to turn 46 on Feb. 25.

Grimsley is survived by his wife and two college-age sons.

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.