No suspect in Memphis slaying
By: By WOODY BAIRD Associated Press Writer
MEMPHIS (AP) — Police said Tuesday they were searching for a motive and suspects in the slaying of a University of Memphis football player, including whether it was related to $3,000 in cash he won at a nearby casino days earlier.
Police have still not determined whether Taylor Bradford, 21, was shot randomly Sunday night. University officials did not notify students of the incident for several hours, maintaining he was specifically targeted and that the suspects had fled campus.
Police said they were checking out a report that Bradford was flush with cash after a trip to a Mississippi casino just south of Memphis, but refused to give any details.
“We don’t think it was the night he was murdered. It was either Friday or Saturday and he was reported to have won about $3,000,” said Larry Liddell, a spokesman for the Tunica County, Miss., Sheriff’s Department.
Investigators also were piecing together his movements over a period of about 45 minutes — from when he was seen at a student meeting on campus safety to when his car crashed into a tree near his apartment building.
“We’re trying to establish a timeline within that timeframe,” said Sgt. Vince Higgins, special assistant to the Memphis police director.
Investigators believe the shooting occurred a few blocks away in a parking lot near Bradford’s on-campus apartment where witnesses reported hearing gunfire and seeing two unidentified men speed away in a car.
Higgins said police were still waiting for a medical examiner’s report in hopes the trajectory of the fatal bullet would show whether Bradford was inside or outside of his car when he was shot.
Students were not notified about the shooting for several hours because school officials decided Bradford was targeted for attack and no one else was in immediate danger.
But the university still took the precaution of canceling classes on Monday.
“If it was a random event, then everybody should have been notified faster,” said Jeremy Krug, 23, a junior at the university. “If it was a targeted event, then there was a reason he was targeted, and they haven’t told us why.”
Krug is signed up for a new warning system called “Tiger Talk” through which text messages are sent to students’ cell phones.
The university did not send out a text message for more than five hours after the shooting Sunday night or use a new outdoor public address system that can broadcast voice messages across campus.
“I live a few blocks south of campus and I can hear the public address system from my house,” Krug said. “It would have been nice to know something had gone wrong.”
The university, primarily a commuter school, has just under 23,400 students with fewer than 2,200 in campus housing. The text message system is new for the fall semester and 6,043 students are signed up for it. And of those, 1,399 signed up Monday and Tuesday.
University President Shirley Raines said the warning systems were not employed because authorities believed Bradford’s killers had selected him for attack and fled from campus immediately after the shooting.
Gionni Carr, 22, president of the Student Government Association, said he agreed with that decision.
“All it would have done at that point was cause mass pandemonium, which wasn’t necessary,” Carr said.
Bradford, a junior transfer student slated to play linebacker for the Memphis football team this year, was described by friends as outgoing and contentious about school and sports.
“He was a wonderful person,” said senior Keionna Kilgore, 21.
Kilgore, who helped other students put together a small memorial to Bradford at the site of the car crash, said the shooting left her worried about her own safety.
“I hope they catch the people who did this,” she said. “I don’t feel safe with them being out there.”
Students held a candlelight memorial service for Bradford at the university Monday night and a moment of silence was planned before Tuesday night’s football game against Marshall. A poster in the student union on Tuesday encouraged students to wear black armbands to the game in his honor.
Published in The Messenger on 10.03.07
Taylor Bradford, University of Memphis