<
>

Former NFL RB Warrick Dunn emotional after Baton Rouge shooting

play
Warrick Dunn salutes Baton Rouge officers (3:22)

Baton Rouge native Warrick Dunn explains how the community embraced his family after his mother, a police officer, was murdered in 1993 while off duty, and says his heart goes out to the families of the officers who were ambushed and killed. (3:22)

Former NFL running back Warrick Dunn is struggling to cope with the police shooting in his native Baton Rouge, Louisiana, on Sunday morning.

Dunn, who is a minority owner of the Atlanta Falcons, suffered the loss of his mother as a result of a violent incident in the same city in 1993. Betty Smothers, a Baton Rouge police officer, was killed in a robbery attempt, leaving an 18-year-old Dunn to raise five younger siblings.

In a statement released to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution on Sunday night about the incident in which three police officers were fatally shot and three others injured, Dunn asked to stop the violence.

"My heart breaks for the families and law enforcement officers in Baton Rouge who have lost loved ones," Dunn said. "I have been in similar shoes -- it will change their lives and leave them reeling with questions for years to come. It is a shame -- so many officers who are out there on the front lines have tremendous heart for what they do. These acts of violence don't solve anything, and if my voice can add to the movement to stop it, then I'd consider that a good thing."

The shooting of the police officers on Sunday came less than two weeks after Alton Sterling died in an incident with the police in Baton Rouge that was captured on video and sparked protests across the country. It also follows the shooting deaths of five Dallas police officers earlier this month.

"The reality of our world is that there is a lot of unrest in our communities, particularly where police shootings are happening," Dunn said in the statement. "I feel close to this subject -- it has touched me very personally. I speak for no one other than myself and I support law enforcement. I also support the community of Baton Rouge because they were there for me and my family. If I could have any effect, I'd ask the community to stop the violence, to cool down and to come together to figure this out. There is nothing we can't do, but we have to work together to make something positive come from yet another tragedy in my hometown."

Dunn was drafted in 1997 by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers after a stellar college career at Florida State. He played for five seasons with the Bucs before moving to Atlanta to play for the Falcons. He returned to Tampa Bay in 2008 for his final NFL season as a professional player.

In his 2008 autobiography, "Running For My Life," Dunn detailed his mother's murder and how his battles with depression throughout his life transformed his journey.

In his statement, Dunn encouraged the Baton Rouge community to act as a method of healing.

"We can't just sit around and talk about how horrible all this is -- we have to do something. And that means it always starts with the individual," Dunn said. "One of the things I am doing is taking the role of fatherhood very seriously so I can raise a son who makes a positive contribution. And then we have to give justice a chance to work. When people are intentional about their use of guns against others, we have to make sure the message that crime doesn't pay means something."

Dunn has received local and national recognition for his philanthropic work off the field, including the Walter Payton Man of the Year Award in 2005, the 2010 Heisman Humanitarian Award and the 2011 Jefferson Humanitarian Award for Public Service.