<
>

Broncos mourn Williams; search for killer continues

DENVER -- Police asked for help finding Darrent Williams'
killer Tuesday as coaches and teammates gathered at Broncos
headquarters to honor the 24-year-old player gunned down after a
New Year's Eve party.

"Darrent was a guy that was always upbeat, always had a smile
and he was a fierce competitor," said Broncos coach Mike Shanahan,
fighting back tears.

Williams was killed in a drive-by shooting early Monday, hours
after the Broncos were eliminated from playoff contention.

"We're working around the clock on this investigation," police
spokesman Sonny Jackson said. "It's a situation where anyone who
knows what happened or has any information, we'd love to hear."

Jackson said the police had not identified any suspects, and
were unsure of the nature of the taunts that they believe sparked
an altercation at a night club before the shooting that also
wounded two other people.

Police were searching for a white Suburban or Tahoe with
dark-tinted windows.

Williams sustained a single gunshot wound to the neck, according
to Robert Whitmore, chief medical examiner in the county coroner's
office.

The team will hold a private memorial Wednesday at Bronco
headquarters so that Williams' teammates can tell his family what
he meant to them. The team also will fly together to Fort Worth,
Texas, for Williams' funeral on Saturday.

"He's in a better place right now," Shanahan said, choking up
at a news conference. "It's hard to understand right now. He's a
good man. He's up in heaven right now."

Receiver Javon Walker was with Williams in the limousine when he
was killed and was one of several Broncos who met with professional
counselors the team brought in.

"He just went through a tragic experience," Shanahan said. "A
lot of times when somebody has that happen to them, they wonder why
it [wasn't them]. That's just human nature and obviously the
counselors are talking with him about that. It's a process. It
takes some time."

Instead of the usual exit interviews and locker clean out
Tuesday, the team gathered to cope with Williams' death.

"Today wasn't about football or the offseason or the future,"
safety Nick Ferguson said. "Today was to grieve and remember the
good things about him. … Today we joked, laughed and embraced a
lot, what a family does."

Fans built a makeshift memorial of flowers, photos, teddy bears
and footballs outside team headquarters, one of three around the
city. There were also memorials at the scene of the shooting and at
Invesco Field.

Rudy Leyva of Laredo, Texas, was given a trip to the Broncos'
season finale against San Francisco as a Christmas present from his
girlfriend, Jessica Cerda. While at the game he caught a giveaway
T-shirt in the stands and got Williams to sign it following the
Broncos' loss.

Leyva put flowers around the memorial and left his orange rosary
beads hanging from a snow-covered Christmas wreath.

"I cried at the loss and then cried when I found out he died,"
Leyva said. "It was just devastating."

Sidney Roll of Colorado Springs brought up her two
grandchildren, Manhattan Trull, 4, and Gage Trull, 3, to pay final
respects to Williams, who was Manhattan's favorite player.

"She saw him at a preseason game [against Houston] and wanted
to give him a hug," Roll said. "I told her these guys don't have
time to hug you. He waved her over [in the parking lot after the
game] and gave her a hug. She even named her fish "Bling" after
him, because he was wearing jewelry."

The club had advertised a New Year's Eve event celebrating the
birthday of Denver Nuggets basketball player Kenyon Martin. The
Nuggets canceled practice Monday.

Martin declined to comment Tuesday.

"I really feel for the Broncos and their organization," said
center Marcus Camby, who didn't attend the party. "Knowing Darrent
personally, I really feel for his kids. He was a good friend."

Williams had a 7-year-old son and 4-year-old daughter who live
in Fort Worth. A memorial fund was set up in their honor.

A viewing was scheduled Friday evening at the Great Commission
Baptist Church in Fort Worth, with the funeral scheduled for
Saturday at the same church, Williams' agent Jeff Griffin said.

"It's always tough anytime you deal with somebody that's part
of your family," Shanahan said. "Just a class young man that I
cared an awful lot for. It's tough."