Faith in the face of adversity

Jason Cole
Yahoo! Sports

MIAMI – Among a half-dozen cars sitting in front of the Palmetto Bay house owned by star Washington Redskins safety Sean Taylor, who died Tuesday morning of a gunshot wound suffered at the home the day before, was a beat-up 1970s Cadillac.

The car was almost completely shrouded by a cover, only part of the front end visible. On the front bumper was a faceplate that read "Jesus Christ is the answer" in script and block letters.

As of Tuesday, Jesus Christ was the only answer Taylor's family and friends could cling to in the death of the 24-year-old man. Taylor's father, Pedro, who is the police chief in nearby Florida City, repeatedly talked about his and his family's faith as he spoke with reporters Tuesday night.

"The mood is still the same, God is always in control," Pedro Taylor said when asked about the change from late Monday, when he and others were hopeful Sean Taylor would recover, only to have those hopes crushed. "We have no control of life or death. It's in the power of Him. We thank Him for all 24 years of having Sean here. I know it sounds short, but that's His will."

Pedro Taylor also had a very brief discussion with two members of the Miami-Dade Homicide Bureau on Tuesday night, speaking for no more than 20 seconds with the officers before addressing the media.

However, according to a source with knowledge of the investigation, the Miami-Dade police had "no strong leads" in the death of one of the NFL's rising stars.

Police spent most of Tuesday doing forensic work at the home and corroborating stories from family members and Taylor's girlfriend, who was at the home when Taylor was shot. The girlfriend, Jackie Garcia, and the couple's 18-month-old daughter were unharmed in the shooting.

Nothing appeared to be stolen during the incident, according to the police. In addition, the home had been burglarized earlier this month. The police spent much of Tuesday trying to see if there was a connection between the incidents.

Investigators did tell the source they were confident they eventually will be able to solve the crime but gave no indication of how long it might take.

"You're talking about some experienced, very sharp homicide investigators," the source said. "They've obviously done this a lot. They were very open about what might have happened, and their initial thought was to check out a lot of Taylor's friends because they know he has some shady friends.

"But there's no telling how long it's going to take. They don't have any strong clues at this point. They're really just gathering the evidence."

Still, Pedro Taylor, standing in front of his home in the Perrine suburb of Miami, expressed confidence in Miami-Dade police. As Taylor maintained a façade of happiness for the dozens upon dozens of people who came by to give him hugs of condolence, he leaned heavily on his faith to lead him through a parent's worst nightmare: burying a child.

"I'm very comfortable with the Metro Dade police department or any organization in the law enforcement field because I know that they do what they have to do," Taylor said dutifully. "They do what they have to do to take care of the problem within the reason of the law."

Rather than worry about the investigation, Taylor seemed more intent on soothing all the hurt with some positive reaction based on how he believes God would want him to react.

"As you see all the smiles around, we're thanking God for everything he has done for our family," Taylor said, referring to the many people who surrounded him on the street outside his home. At the same, there was no denying the pain that had brought all the people together.

"We're all hurting," Taylor said. "That's my child. We're all affected by this situation. As a parent, what would I want Sean to do for me if I was in that situation? I would want him to step up to the plate and do what's right and finish the race, as he did."

Services for Sean Taylor are expected to be held Monday or Tuesday at a location to be determined in the Miami area, according to the source. That will allow many of Taylor's teammates and fellow players from around the NFL to attend. Another memorial service for Taylor will be held Wednesday at Gulliver Prep in Perrine, where Taylor attended high school before going on to star at the University of Miami.

Taylor died after suffering significant blood loss from the gunshot, which hit the femoral artery. Taylor had been shot in the groin area, according to a police statement. Taylor went through seven hours of surgery on Monday and doctors held brief hope he would survive when he responded to a command at one point. However, his condition worsened before he finally succumbed in the predawn hours Tuesday.

Pedro Taylor said his son took what was supposed to be a one-day trip to Miami this week to seek a second opinion on his injured knee – which caused him to miss the Redskins' past two games – and was expected to return to Washington on Monday. Instead, he and Garcia reportedly were awakened by the sounds of at least one intruder. The Miami Herald quoted Taylor's attorney Rich Sharpstein as saying Taylor grabbed a machete he had in the bedroom and went through the home. That story had been relayed to Sharpstein by Garcia.

Shortly after Taylor left the bedroom, he returned and was shot at twice, Sharpstein told the Herald. One of the two bullets struck him. Garcia called 911 by cell phone because the home phone was not working, and Taylor was airlifted to Jackson Memorial Hospital in Miami for emergency surgery.

But the odd nature of the crime, such as nothing being taken, led to automatic speculation that someone had come to the home to hurt Taylor intentionally. As of Tuesday, police had a broader focus on the crime.

Moreover, Taylor's house is hardly a picture of high security. Located in an upper-middle class section of town a little less than four miles from his parents' home, the house had a roughly 6-foot wall on the front side of the house with chain link around the rest. The $900,000 home is located on a relatively busy street with easy access out of the neighborhood.

Although there is a buzzer at one gate to the one-story, large ranch-style home on approximately a half-acre of property, the house didn't appear to have much more security. In fact, two lights on the wall bordering the street were broken.

Two teenagers riding their bikes in the neighborhood Tuesday said that crime was relatively prevalent, particularly during the holidays. However, most of the crimes they mentioned were petty theft, such as GPS navigational systems being stolen from boats parked in the driveway.

Ultimately, whether any of that information leads to an arrest, Pedro Taylor said he is comfortable with whatever happens. Asked to guess what the killer might have been thinking at the time, the elder Taylor refused to hazard a guess.

"I don't know. I wasn't there," Taylor said. "Only God knows. He sees all and knows all and I'm quite sure that person who did this here, he knows, and one day he'll realize this was senseless and he'll turn himself in.

"His conscience has to be his guide. Not mine. I'm at peace."

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