Denver Broncos cornerback Darrent Williams was killed in a drive-by shooting early Monday morning in downtown Denver.
Contacted by 7News, Denver Broncos spokesman Jim Saccomano confirmed the fatal shooting of Williams and said that police called the Broncos organization at 3 a.m. and told them that Williams had died.
Saccomano said there was "incredible shock and sadness at a senseless tragedy." The Broncos later released statements on the death from owner Pat Bowlen and coach Mike Shanahan
Williams, 24, was riding in a stretch H2 Hummer limousine on northbound Speer Boulevard near 11th Avenue just after 2 a.m., when the shooting occurred. The shots came from another vehicle which sped away, police said. The limo is owned by A Advantage Limousine Service.
During a late-morning news conference, Denver police confirmed Williams was the person who died in the shooting.
Police spokesman Sonny Jackson said the shooting was preceded by some type of altercation or argument at The Shelter nightclub at 1037 Broadway that involved a group of people who may have been in the cars. He would not say if the two events were connected and stressed that police were looking at all possibilities.
Police are searching for a white Suburban or Tahoe with dark-tinted windows.
Police said there was no indication Williams was targeted because he was a Bronco.
Jackson said the two wounded people were rushed to St. Anthony Hospital. Nicole Reindl was hit by gunfire and is expected to be released from the hospital in a few days, he said. Brandon Flowers was treated and released earlier in the day.
Reindl's father told 7NEWS that she said there was an altercation involving Williams both inside and outside of the nightclub.
There were 15 other people in the limo including Broncos wide receiver Javon Walker. Walker was seen later Monday at the Broncos headquarters with what appeared to be blood on his shirt and pants.
The name of the party that Williams was at just before the shooting was the Safari New Year's Bash at the Shelter. Williams was hosting the party along with Bronco teammates Tatum Bell, D.J. Williams and Brandon Marshall. Denver Nuggets players J.R. Smith and DerMarr Johnson were also hosting the party.
The party was in celebration of the birthday of Denver Nuggets basketball player Kenyon Martin. The Nuggets canceled practice Monday.
Bronco teammate Champ Bailey was seen going into Denver Health in the early-morning hours after the shooting.
On a brief interview on ESPN Monday morning, Broncos running back Tatum Bell said "there was some kind of altercation at the club'' before the shooting and said that he had talked to Williams -- by phone -- at about 10 p.m., when the two were trying to decide where they were going to go for the remainder of the evening.
Bell also said in the interview that Williams "died instantly.'' Bell was a teammate of Williams' at Oklahoma State University.
The limo carrying Williams ran off the road near the intersection when the shooting occurred. It was surrounded by police tape shortly after the shooting. 7News anchor Mitch Jelniker, reporting from the shooting scene, said at least eight bullet holes could plainly be seen in several of the limo doors and windows
News of the fatal shooting involving Williams was first reported by 7News at 5 a.m. and on TheDenverChannel.com.
Denver police said the city's murder rate has been on the decline in the last two years. In 2004, 87 people were murdered in Denver, a sharp jump over 63 the year before. But that number declined over the last two years. In 2005, 59 people were murdered and, last year, 58 were killed.
"This is a very strange and unusual occurrence," said police Jackson.
Williams played against the San Francisco 49ers on New Year's Eve. Williams had a sack, a forced fumble, and led the team with seven sacks in the game. The Broncos lost 26-23 in overtime and were eliminated from the playoffs.
"He had a big heart and a lot of courage," said Cedric Smith, assistant strength and conditioning coach. "It's a tragedy, a complete tragedy. It's sickening."
Williams teamed with Bailey to give Denver one of the top cornerback tandems in the NFL. Williams finished the season with 88 tackles, 78 of them solo, and four interceptions.
In November, Williams was fined $15,000 by the National Football League for unsportsmanlike conduct against a game official in the closing minutes of the Broncos 35-27 loss to the San Diego Chargers.
Williams, a second-round draft pick in 2005, came from Oklahoma State. OSU issued a statement on Williams' death
William started nine games as a rookie with the Broncos due to other player's injuries. This season, he took over as the starter for Lenny Walls alongside Champ Bailey, and was second on the team with four interceptions and tied for third with 86 tackles.
Click here to read the Denver Broncos bio on Williams
. Williams also had his own Web site
. Fans were just starting to post their reactions on the Web site
early Monday morning.
OSU fans were also posting their thoughts on the death of Williams on the OSU GoPOkes.com Web site
. One fan said: "He left us so many great Cowboy memories with his exciting returns and enthusiasm for the game. God bless his family."
Williams had a tough youth but straightened out in college, said his high-school football coach, Anthony Criss.
"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 and continued to speak regularly with Williams. "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 matured at Oklahoma State, turning his eye toward a professional football career, Criss said.
"I visited him his junior year, and he was grown," Criss said. "Everything was, `Yes, sir. No, sir."
Williams recently talked about his plans for the coming off season, and told The Denver Post
: "What I want to do this offseason is go back home (to Fort Worth) and talk to kids. It's hard back there because of all the violence, drugs. It's right there in your face. When I was growing up, there'd be people doing drugs right there in front of us kids. I just want to tell them they don't have to be like that. Believe in yourself. "
Williams was raised in Fort Worth, Texas by his mother, Rosiland. She flew to Denver Monday to make funeral arrangements for her son.
The last active NFL player to die was Thomas Herrion of San Francisco. He had a heart attack following an exhibition game in Denver on Aug. 20, 2005.
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