MEMPHIS – A University of Memphis football player was fatally shot on campus in what police believe was a targeted attack, and classes were canceled Monday as a precaution.
Taylor Bradford, 21, apparently was shot near a university housing complex about 9:45 p.m. Sunday and then crashed a car he was driving into a tree a short distance away on campus, officials said.
“We found him with a bullet wound to the body and the ambulance took him to the hospital where he was pronounced (dead),” said Roger Prewitt, a Memphis Police inspector.
Detectives investigating the shooting received reports of gunfire being heard in a parking lot of the housing complex about 200 yards from where Bradford was found, police spokeswoman Monique Martin said.
Homicide detectives were unsure of a motive for the shooting and had no suspects, she said. “That’s all still under investigation,” she said.
University President Shirley Raines said that witnesses told police they saw more than one person leaving the scene who could have been involved.
“This was an act directed specifically toward the victim and it was not a random act of violence,” she said.
Residence halls in the surrounding area were closed to outsiders immediately, and residents were advised not to go outside. Students, faculty and staff were told by e-mail early Monday morning that classes were canceled.
In an e-mail alert to faculty, staff and students at 3:40 a.m. Monday, officials wrote that “the initial investigation indicates this was an act directed specifically toward the victim and was not a random act of violence.”
The university decided to cancel classes Monday, although police believe the person or persons involved in the shooting left the campus immediately.
“We feel like the campus is safe, but we’d rather err on the safety than not,” Gunther said.
Bradford, a 5-foot-11, 300-pound defensive lineman, was a junior who transferred to Memphis after two seasons at Samford University in Birmingham, Ala.
The Memphis Tigers host Marshall University on Tuesday night. A moment of silence was planned before the game. On Monday, several football players and others tied red ribbons and left notes at the tree where Bradford was found. Some students planned a vigil Monday evening.
“Our entire football team is deeply saddened by the loss of Taylor,” head coach Tommy West said in a statement. “He was well respected and a popular member of our team. Our thoughts and prayers go out to his family.”
Bradford, a resident of Nashville, transferred to Memphis in 2006 and was on the roster for this season, but had not played in a game this season.
Bradford lettered in three sports at Antioch High School in Nashville, and held school records in shotput and discus.
The University of Memphis had 20,562 students enrolled for last fall, according to its Web site.
The school was founded in 1912 as West Tennessee State Normal School and was renamed Memphis State College in 1941. It became Memphis State University in 1957, two years before it admitted its first black students. It was renamed the University of Memphis in 1994.
In other 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.