Junior Seau, the hometown hero and onetime USC player who became a star linebacker for the San Diego Chargers, died of an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound this morning, according to reports.
Police in his hometown of Oceanside, where he played high school ball, said they received a report of his demise about 10 a.m.
Everyone at the Chargers is in complete shock and disbelief right now. We ask everyone to stop what they're doing and send their prayers to Junior and his family.
Seau was 43. He left behind four children and an ex-wife, according to TMZ.
That site reported that Seau might have shot himself in the chest.
He might have been found by his housekeeper or girlfriend, depending on which report you trust.
[Added at 12:38 p.m.]: The San Diego Union-Tribune notes that …
Seau is a 12-time Pro Bowl linebacker, played 13 seasons for the Chargers starting in 1990. He then played for the Miami Dolphins and most recently for the New England Patriots. He played for the University of Southern California for three years after high school.
He had some trouble in 2010 when, after an arrest for allegedly assaulting his 25-year-old girlfriend (charges were never brought), Seau drove his Cadillac Escalade off of the 5 freeway in Carlsbad and down a 30-foot bluff. It was reported that he might have fallen asleep at the wheel.
[Update at 12:46 p.m.]: The U-T reports that Seau's girlfriend called 911 at 9:35 a.m: A gun was found by Seau's side; his body was in bed. Efforts to revive him, the paper says, were fruitless.
[Update at 4:16 p.m.]: USC published a dedication to Seau on its sports website.
Football coach Lane Kiffin said:
This is a very sad day. The USC football program and the entire Trojan Family extends our condolences to Junior's family. He was one of the greatest Trojans of all-time. Our team and fans were very fortunate to see him just a couple of weeks ago at our Spring Game at the Coliseum. He will be deeply missed.
Meanwhile, the Union-Tribune described the scene in front of Seau's seaside home, where “hundreds” of fans gathered today and his mother nearly chased down the coroner's van carrying her son's body. She cried:
Junior! Why didn't you tell me you were going?
[Update at 3:51 p.m. Thursday]: The San Diego County coroner this afternoon stated:
The manner of death has been classified as suicide. Seau was discovered dead in his home Wednesday morning at about 9:35 a.m.
He shot himself in the chest, the coroner confirmed.
The office said that toxicology tests were still pending. It added that it was “awaiting” his family's decision on whether Seau's brain would be examined regarding the effects of repetitive brain injury.
There was some speculation that such football-related injuries could lead to depression and ultimately suicide. Seau was the second ex-NFL player to commit suicide in recent months.