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Chargers Great Junior Seau Dead From Apparent Suicide

Junior Seau announces his retirement from the NFL at the Chargers Training Fa...

Credit: Donald Miralle

Above: Junior Seau announces his retirement from the NFL at the Chargers Training Facility in San Diego, Aug. 14, 2006.

SD Hall of Champions Discusses Death of Junior Seau

San Diego Hall of Champions President Alan Kidd talks to KPBS about the death of Junior Seau.

Oceanside Police confirmed that Chargers great Junior Seau was found dead at his Oceanside home of an apparent gunshot wound.
Erik Anderson, KPBS business reporter
Lee "Hacksaw" Hamilton, afternoon sports talk show host, XX-1090
Jay Paris, North County Times, Sports Reporter


Oceanside Police confirmed that Chargers great Junior Seau was found dead at his Oceanside home of an apparent gunshot wound.

Junior Seau was found dead at his home in Oceanside Wednesday morning from an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound to the chest, police said. The 43-year-old Chargers great was found by his girlfriend in a bedroom at the beachfront home with a handgun nearby and he was unresponsive. Paramedics later declared him dead.

The death is being investigated as an apparent suicide; police did not find a note in the bedroom.

Hundreds quickly converged at Seau's beachfront home as news spread in late morning. Not long after noon, Seau's mother -- wracked with grief -- stepped before TV cameras. Luisa Seau said she was in church when she learned of the tragedy and begged God to take her life instead of her son's ... "but it was too late," she sobbed.

Condolences quickly poured in from across the country for the sports superstar and philanthropist who lived most of his life in San Diego County.

"Junior was my friend. We all lost a friend today," Chargers President Dean Spanos said in a statement. "Junior was an icon in our community. He transcended the game. He wasn't just a football player, he was so much more.... This is just such a tragic loss. One of the worst things I could ever imagine."

Chargers Coach Norv Turner added: "I can tell you no one had more character and true leadership ability than Junior. He brought passion to the game of football that was unmatched. His commitment to charitable causes in the community was inspiring. It was an honor to know him."

An autopsy could shed more light on the death -- an examination which may be completed as early as Thursday, the county Medical Examiner's Office said.

Locally, fans expressed shock at the sudden death of the icon.

Ruben Escabosa worked with Seau on some real estate ideas. He says he's shocked to hear about the apparent suicide. He said Seau was friendly, enthusiastic, and full of energy.

"He was bigger than life. And his loyalty to his roots. He was a philanthropist. He was very proud of his roots. Specifically Oceanside and his high school, the Oceanside Pirates," Escabosa said. “And his heritage. He was very proud and promoted and supported his Samoan heritage, which I think is very important."

The Chargers said in a statement:

"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."

Police said Seau's girlfriend last saw him about 7:30 a.m. in the morning, just before she left for the gym. She found him immobile on the floor when she returned home about two hours later and called police.

A throng of people gathered in front of the home as relatives and close friends arrived. Impromptu memorials sprung up at the nearby beach and at the Mission Valley sports bar that bears his name.

Seau was born in January 1969 in San Diego. But his family moved back to their native American Samoa for several years before returning to San Diego County.

He grew up in the North County and excelled at sports at Oceanside High School. The athletic teenager lettered in football, basketball and track and was named one of the top high school athletes in the country.

He later accepted a football scholarship at the University of Southern California, where he was named an All-American.

In 1990, the linebacker was taken in the first round of the NFL draft by his hometown team: the Chargers. He anchored the defense for 12 years and helped lead the team to its only Super Bowl appearance in 1994, where they lost to the San Francisco 49ers. After an injury-plagued 2002 season, he was traded to the Miami Dolphins, where he played for three years.

Seau retired in 2006 – for one day. He returned to the NFL with the New England Patriots, chasing the NFL championship that eluded him in his time with the Chargers. He retired in 2009 from pro-football after a 20-year career filled with accolades. He never got the championship he sought.

He was a 10-time All-Pro, and a 12-time Pro Bowl selection and was inducted into the Chargers Hall of Fame. Considered one of the best linebackers to ever play the game, many expect him to be inducted into the NFL Hall of Fame.

Seau was considered by many to be a champion for his charitable work in San Diego County. He founded the Junior Seau Foundation, which has raised about $4 million for programs that raise awareness about child abuse, drug and alcohol prevention, help disadvantaged youth and also provide scholarships.

Seau also briefly starred in his own cable television reality show.

Seau was generally described as happy, positive and willing to help.

"A big face and a big smile. All this teeth are showing," said Carolyn Mitchell, a longtime fan, outside the Seau's restaurant in Mission Valley. "A kind person; a very kind person"

In 2010, an arrest on suspicion of domestic violence marred his image. Hours after the arrest, Seau drove his SUV off a 30-foot cliff at a Carlsbad beach. Seau, who sustained minor injuries in the solo crash, explained he fell asleep at the wheel.

The domestic violence case was later dropped.

Seau, who is divorced, left behind four children.

KPBS News reporters Erik Anderson, Jose Luis Jiménez, Susan Murphy and Mark Sauer contributed to this report.

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