Denver Broncos head coach Mike Shanahan faced the media Tuesday, a day after the shooting death of cornerback Darrent Williams.
"I'd like to thank the entire Denver community for the outpouring of support for Darrent's family and the Denver Broncos," said Shanahan during a Tuesday afternoon news conference. "It's tough. Our team is holding up as best as possible under the circumstances."
Shanahan said there would be a memorial service Wednesday with Williams' teammates and immediate family at Dove Valley -- the Broncos training facility. He said the entire Denver Bronco football team would fly to Fort Worth for the Saturday funeral service.
"Darrent was a guy who was always up -- always had a smile," said Shanahan. "He was a tough competitor."
Talking about his first year with the Broncos, Shanahan said Williams came into the team and impressed the coaches "right away" with his talent.
Shanahan was obviously affected by the death and paused several times in the news conference to keep from breaking down.
"We've got a special group of guys here and there's a lot of grieving going on," Shanahan said. He also said counselors were on hand to talk to Williams' teammates.
While some players went straight to the hospital where Williams' body was taken, others gathered at team headquarters, including receiver Javon Walker, who was reportedly in the limo when Williams was shot. Walker appeared to have a large bloodstain smeared across his white shirt when he arrived. Walker did not speak with reporters.
"He just went through a tragic experience," Shanahan said. "A lot of times when somebody has that happen to them, they wonder why it (wasn't them). That's just human nature and obviously the counselors are talking with him about that. It's a process. It takes some time."
Instead of the usual exit interviews and locker clean out Tuesday, the team gathered to cope with Williams' death.
"Today wasn't about football or the offseason or the future," safety Nick Ferguson said. "Today was to grieve and remember the good things about him. Today we joked, laughed and embraced a lot, what a family does."
"He's in a better place now," Shanahan said of Williams several times during his media briefing.
"I think everybody feels about Darrent the way I do because I don't think there was a guy who wasn't his friend," Shanahan said. "It's just the way he lived life. He had a smile on his face. You never know why God takes somebody, but I know one thing -- he got somebody very special."
"He was one of the most positive young men I've ever been around," Williams' agent Jeff Griffin said. "He lit up the room with his smile."
His former high school football coach in Texas, Anthony Criss, said Williams had gone from hanging with the wrong crowd to trying to keep kids away gangs and violence.
"When he was younger, he always gravitated to the wrong crowd," said Criss, who coached Williams for three seasons at O.D. Wyatt High in Fort Worth. "I remember he went to church and the minister was talking to him about needing to pray and stop hanging around with the wrong people, and he started straightening up and doing the right thing."
Williams, who has two young children in the Fort Worth area, said last month that he wanted to return to his hometown in the offseason to talk to kids about staying out of street gangs. He also had recently spoken to Criss about establishing a free football camp for young players in Fort Worth.
"He had great compassion," Criss said. "He always wanted to try to make sure people did the right thing. He wanted to be a good parent, a good father, a good example for his kids. He will be missed."
Police had no motive and no indication the 24-year-old player was targeted in the drive-by shooting, which occurred hours after Denver was eliminated from the playoffs with a loss to San Francisco.
"We're working around the clock on this investigation," Jackson said. "It's a situation where anyone who knows what happened or has any information, we'd love to hear."
As first reported on 7News and TheDenverChannel.com early Monday, just after 2 a.m., Williams' limousine was fired on from a vehicle that pulled up along its side, hitting three people, police spokesman Sonny Jackson said.
A man and a woman, Brandon Flowers and Nicole Reindl, were wounded. They were taken to St. Anthony Central Hospital. The woman, a University of Colorado student, was shot in the head but the bullet did not enter her brain. The man -- described as a friend of Williams -- was treated for his injuries and released from the hospital on Monday.
Reindl's father, Ron Reindl, told 7NEWS she still has a bullet lodged in the back of her head. He said doctors have decided to leave the bullet there for now, but they may need to operate in the future.
Ron Reindl said Williams invited his daughter and her friends to take a ride in the limo when the party ended. He said, "She was leaning forward talking into her cell phone while holding a finger in her other ear, so she could hear better. That's when a bullet grazed the back of her head. I believe that cell phone call saved her life."
Ron Reindl said his daughter saw a fight inside the club during the party and another fight outside as the party ended. She said she doesn't think Williams or anyone in their limo was involved.
Jackson said there was a dispute at a nightclub several blocks from the shooting where Williams and his group had attended a party. He said the argument didn't specifically involve Williams, according to witnesses, and the confrontation only involved taunts and didn't get physical. He also said no shots were fired from inside the limo.
Police were searching for a white Suburban or Tahoe with dark-tinted windows in connection with the shooting that occurred just a few blocks from Denver police headquarters.
"We have received several calls from the public which have been very helpful," said Jackson. "I think people are incensed by this."
"Someone knows who did this, so we need that someone to call us," he said
The Shelter club advertised a New Year's Eve event celebrating the birthday of Denver Nuggets basketball player Kenyon Martin. The Nuggets canceled practice Monday.
Martin told The Denver Post that he and several Nuggets left the nightclub before midnight, before any problems arose. "I was there. He was there. I left. I saw him. That was about the extent of it," Martin told the newspaper.
The club was closed Monday night, a torn New Year's hat lying outside on the sidewalk.
Hours after the shooting, the limo sat in a snow bank beside Speer Boulevard, a main street through downtown. Police and technicians worked amid snow and ice from recent storms, using small yellow plastic markers to indicate possible evidence.
"His heart was so big, he was always giving to those who didn't have," said Rosalind Williams, who flew to Denver from Fort Worth. "It didn't even have to be for an agency or a charity. If he knew you didn't have, he'd hand it out of his pocket."
Williams was a second-round draft choice in 2005 out of Oklahoma State and teamed with Champ Bailey to give Denver one of the NFL's elite cornerback tandems.
"He was the greatest players I have coached in my 20 years," Oklahoma State secondary and special teams coach Joe DeForest said. "He wanted to prove to the world that he could play. ... He wanted to prove himself, and that's the way he approached every game. It was what made him a great player."
Williams Other Side
There was more to Williams than football. He also wanted to save kids from gang violence.
Williams' mother, Rosalind, doesn't want her son's dreams to die after he was shot and killed early Monday. The player's white stretch Hummer was hit with a barrage of bullets after a nightclub dispute following a New Year's Eve party.
"I want every kid to know to live their life to the fullest," she said. "Don't let anyone say you can't do anything. Look what Dee achieved in 24 years."
"All I can say is he did more in his 24 years ... maybe that's why he did so much because he knew his time on Earth was limited," Rosalind Williams said. "Guns are in the wrong hands. People have no respect for human life. Dee won't be back. The guy who pulled the trigger has to live with it."
She told 7News that her son was, "hard working, full of life and big hearted."
"She's trying. This is very difficult. He's an only child," said William's uncle, Demond Williams. "He meant so much to all of us. He was pretty much the center core of our family."
Demond Williams received news of his nephew's death in the middle of the night. He said he believes an altercation involving local residents and members of a rap group his nephew promoted may have sparked the shooting later.
"I know in my heart that he wasn't the target. Someone thought the people who they got into with at the club were in the same limo he was in and they weren't."
Holding a photo taken at a recent Broncos Christmas party, his uncle said Williams had always gone out of his way to avoid problems.
"You know, violence was not his type at all. The only violence he did was on the field, hitting people."
Demond Williams called his nephew's killer a senseless person. He said Williams did not have security because he didn't think he needed it.
"He was just a regular kid, you know," said Demond Williams.
Rosalind Williams said she her son's funeral would take place in Fort Worth, Texas on Saturday. It will be held at noon at the Great Commission Baptist Church.
In Denver, a makeshift memorial to Williams sprung up on a corner of 11th Avenue and Speer Boulevard, with candles, cards and notes. Bronco-themed balloons were tied to a nearby tree.
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