|Thousands expected at funeral for Redskins star Sean Taylor|
|Written by Admin|
|Sunday, 02 December 2007 23:57|
Thousands were expected to follow a wake and vigil Sunday night with a massive funeral for slain NFL player Sean Taylor on Monday at Florida International University's Pharmed Arena.
Meanwhile, four young men charged with killing the Washington Redskins star safety sat in jail cells on the other side of the state.
``We lost one of our best. The whole community feels it,'' said Khary Pestaina, who lives in Taylor's former south Miami neighborhood and came to the packed wake at Second Baptist Church on Sunday.
Wearing a dark suit, Taylor was in a wooden coffin, surrounded by flower arrangements and heralded by a church choir. Hundreds of mourners filed by him, bowing their heads, crossing themselves and shaking with tears. A police officer stood guard near a casket cordoned off by red velvet ropes.
``He's like my hero,'' whispered Josh Persad as he waited in line outside the church. The freshman at Miramar High School came wearing a Taylor jersey.
After the wake, about 2,000 fans gathered for a somber vigil outside BankUnited Center at the University of Miami, where the athlete's skills made him an idol. They held white candles toward the sky as a university band performed the alma mater. Some said they would emulate him, others said they would always remember him.
Taylor's No. 26 jersey from the school was framed, along with a photo of him in his Hurricanes uniform.
``Sean is with God now,'' his father, Pedro Taylor said.
The remembrances came only hours after a fourth man charged in the shooting death of the 24-year-old Taylor appeared briefly in court and, like his co-defendants, was denied bond.
Jason Mitchell, 19, appeared via videoconference in a Fort Myers courtroom, about 100 miles from here. Dressed in an orange jumpsuit, he responded quietly when asked if he understood the charges. ``He looks like he's in shock,'' said Sawyer Smith, one of his attorneys.
Three others - Eric Rivera, 17; Charles Wardlow, 18; and Venjah Hunte, 20 - made their first court appearance Saturday.
All four have been charged with unpremeditated murder, home invasion with a firearm or another deadly weapon and armed burglary. They will be transported to Miami, though authorities haven't said when.
Probable cause affidavits for Mitchell and Rivera obtained by The Associated Press said the two confessed to participating in armed burglary. According to the reports, Mitchell and Rivera admitted entering the home and said someone had a gun and shot Taylor, but they didn't identify who. Police and attorneys also have said some of the young men confessed, though they wouldn't elaborate.
Taylor died Tuesday, one day after being shot at his home in an affluent Miami suburb. Police said the suspects were looking for a simple burglary, but it turned bloody when they were startled to find Taylor home.
The suspects all have prior arrests, according to police, including drug, theft and gun charges, though friends and family have defended them.
Police remain tightlipped about how the suspects wound up at Taylor's home. But his former attorney Richard Sharpstein said Taylor's sister was dating a relative of Wardlow and that one or more people tied to the suspects may have attended her 21st birthday party at the athlete's home.
Miami-Dade police wouldn't confirm any of the possible links.
Early Monday, Taylor and his longtime girlfriend, Jackie Garcia, were awakened by loud noises at his home and within moments he was shot. Neither the couple's 18-month-old daughter, also named Jackie, nor Garcia were injured, but the bullet hit the femoral artery in Taylor's leg, causing significant blood loss.
He never regained consciousness and died early Tuesday.
Authorities haven't said whether they've linked the suspects to a break-in at Taylor's home eight days before the shooting. In that incident, someone pried open a front window, rifled through drawers and left a kitchen knife on a bed.
Sharpstein said Taylor's family was grateful for fast police work in the case, but that the arrests gave little comfort.
Associated Press writer Matt Sedensky contributed to this report.