Students at the University of Memphis returned to class Tuesday, Oct. 2, without knowing whether the fatal campus shooting of a football player was a targeted or random attack.
University officials had said they believed the Sunday night attack was specifically aimed at Taylor Bradford. But no suspects have been identified and police later said they could not yet determine the motive for the shooting outside a university housing complex that led officials to cancel classes Monday.
“We really don’t know whether it was a random act or whether or not this individual was targeted,” City Police Director Larry Godwin said.
Bradford, 21, apparently was shot near his apartment complex Sunday night, then crashed a car he was driving into a tree a short distance away on campus, authorities said. They have not determined whether he was shot before or after he started driving.
Police were responding to the crash when they found Bradford slumped over in the car.
“It wasn’t until the paramedics got there that they determined there was a possible gunshot wound,” said Bruce Harber, director of university police. He was apparently shot once, police said, though an autopsy was pending.
University President Shirley Raines said authorities quickly determined Bradford’s killer or killers were not a threat to other students but still banned all outsiders from campus housing throughout the night.
In an eMail alert to faculty, students, and staff members early Monday, the university said “the initial investigation indicates this was an act directed specifically toward the victim and was not a random act of violence.”
The university, which is primarily a commuter campus and has more than 20,000 students, still decided to cancel classes Monday.
Witnesses saw two unidentified men running from the area where investigators believe the shooting occurred and other witnesses reported hearing gunfire, said Godwin, the city police director.
He said investigators had no evidence that Bradford was involved in any illegal activity.
“Everything I’ve heard about him…he was just a good kid,” Godwin said.
Bradford, a 5-foot-11, 300-pound defensive lineman, was a junior who transferred to Memphis last year after two seasons at Samford University in Birmingham, Ala. The Nashville resident was to play for the Tigers this season.
Monday afternoon, several football players and others tied a large red ribbon to the tree Bradford struck with his car and put up a large poster board for friends and acquaintances to leave personal notes.
“Our entire football team is deeply saddened by the loss of Taylor,” Memphis head coach Tommy West said. “He was well respected and a popular member of our team.”
The Memphis Tigers host Marshall University on Tuesday night, and a moment of silence was planned before the game.
Bradford lettered in three sports at Antioch High School in Nashville, and held school records in shot put and discus.
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