As stunned family, friends and sports fans grieved the death of former San Diego Chargers star Junior Seau, autopsy results today confirmed that he committed suicide.
The 43-year-old NFL great killed himself with a gunshot to the chest at his Oceanside home on Wednesday morning, according to the county Medical Examiner’s Office. Police said they found no suicide note, and family and friends seemed at a loss to explain what could have driven the community icon and role model to end his own life.
Emergency crews responding to a report of a possible suicide at Seau’s beachfront house in the 600 block of The Strand South found him mortally wounded with a pistol by his side shortly after 9:30 a.m. Medics pronounced him dead at the scene.
The precise time of his death was unclear, county spokeswoman Sarah Gordon said. Seau’s girlfriend said she had last seen him alive less than two hours before returning from a trip to the gym to find he had shot himself, according to police.
The medical examiner is awaiting the Seau family’s decision on whether to submit the athlete’s brain to an examination by outside experts for evidence of repetitive trauma possibly suffered during his NFL career, according to Gordon.
Researchers have found links between multiple concussions and serious depression among football players, fueling speculation that Seau might have succumbed to despair brought about or worsened by such injuries.
Community response to Seau’s death was swift, as large crowds and makeshift memorials accumulated in front of his home, his namesake restaurant in Mission Valley and the Chargers’ offices in Murphy Canyon shortly after word of his death began spreading.
Today, mourners and well-wishers continued to gather in front of Seau’s beach house, building up a large display of signs, flowers, balloons, football jerseys and T-shirts bearing fond handwritten messages about the sports luminary.
Late this morning, Tiaina Seau Sr., arrived and briefly stood in front of his late son’s seaside residence, weeping and shaking his head, before getting back into his car and driving off.
In addition to his football prowess, Seau — an Oceanside High School alumnus — was known as a generous philanthropist, focused largely on helping vulnerable youths.
In 1992, he created the Junior Seau Foundation, an organization formed to raise money and other resources for programs that educate young people and guide them on positive life paths. The 20th-anniversary Junior Seau Celebrity Golf Classic fundraiser was held in March at La Costa Resort and Spa.
Seau, who had been a standout athlete at the University of Southern California, played 20 seasons in the National Football League, mostly for the Chargers, but also for the Miami Dolphins and New England Patriots.
Considered one of the best linebackers in the game, he was elected to 12 consecutive Pro Bowls as a member of San Diego’s NFL franchise.
Signs of possible darkness behind Seau’s ever-sunny public persona arose a year and a half ago.
On Oct. 18, 2010, he was arrested after his 25-year-old live-in girlfriend reported that he had assaulted her during an argument. Later that morning, five hours after bailing out of jail, he drove his 2004 Cadillac Escalade over a rocky 30-foot coastal cliff and onto Carlsbad State Beach, suffering minor injuries.
Seau told police he had fallen asleep at the wheel.
The San Diego County District Attorney’s Office declined to file charges against the football star over the alleged domestic abuse.
Seau is survived by a daughter and two sons.
Funeral arrangements were being finalized.