Los Angeles. Former NFL star Junior Seau was found dead Wednesday of an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound at his home north of San Diego, authorities said.
Frank McCoy, chief of police in suburban Oceanside, said the 43-year-old Seau was found with a gunshot wound to the chest at his beachfront home north of San Diego by “a young lady who indicated that she was Junior Seau’s girlfriend.”
“She indicated that she returned to the residence to find Mr. Seau unconscious, suffering from a gunshot wound to the chest,” McCoy said, adding that police and fire department personnel responded to her call, but found Seau dead.
“This case at this point is being investigated as a suicide, a handgun was found near the body,” McCoy said.
The San Diego Chargers, his longtime team, voiced shock at “the passing of Junior Seau.”
“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,” the team said in a brief statement.
Seau, who is survived by a daughter and two sons, spent 13 seasons with the Chargers, helping the team reach the Super Bowl after the 1994 season. He was inducted into the Chargers Hall of Fame in November.
Seau’s mother, Luisa Mauga Seau, spoke emotionally to reporters gathered outside her son’s home, where his sister, Annette, asked the media to respect the family’s privacy.
“My brother was a loving brother, a caring citizen, so I would appreciate it if you would just honor his last day and give us some kind of peace and privacy,” she said.
Seau is the eighth member of San Diego’s Super Bowl team to pass away, joining linebackers Lew Bush, Dave Griggs and Doug Miller, running back Rodney Culver, defensive linemen Shawn Lee and Chris Mims and center Curtis Whitley.
“We all lost a friend today,” said Chargers president Dean Spanos. “Junior was an icon in our community. He transcended the game. He wasn’t just a football player. He was so much more. He was loved by everyone in our family, our organization and throughout the NFL. It’s heartbreaking.”
“All of us are deeply saddened about Junior Seau, a great player loved by teammates who also worked hard to serve his community,” said NFL commissioner Roger Goodell in a statement. “Junior and his family will remain in our thoughts.”
Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning said Seau and Bruce Smith were the two most dominating defenders when he entered the league with the Colts in 1998.
“Junior was truly a once-in-a-lifetime player,” Manning said. “He was very difficult to play against because his instincts would always lead him to the right place on defense — or the wrong place for the offense.”
The former linebacker — who was selected for the Pro Bowl 12 times — was arrested on suspicion of domestic violence in Oct. 2010 after an incident with his girlfriend, but was never charged.
A few hours after he posted bail his SUV plunged down an ocean side cliff but Seau escaped serious injury.
Seau also played three NFL seasons for Miami and four for New England before retiring in 2009.