Wednesday, November 8, 2006

The Year Is Just Getting Worse for the Canes

                              

University of Miami defensive lineman Bryan Pata was shot and killed Tuesday night at his apartment complex, school officials said.

The shooting occurred about two hours after the Hurricanes ended their afternoon practice.

Pata, a 22-year-old senior who grew up in Miami, was pronounced dead in the parking lot outside his apartment, and his death was ruled a homicide, Miami-Dade police spokesman Roy Rutland said.

"Right now, we're just gathering ourselves and just trying to pull ourselves together," Miami athletic director Paul Dee said.

Rutland said police were called at 7:30 p.m. to the scene and found Pata's body. He lived about 4 miles from campus.

"Tonight the University of Miami tragically lost a member of our football family, Bryan Pata," the university athletic department said in a release. "Bryan was a fine person and a great competitor. He will be forever missed by his coaches and teammates. We offer our thoughts and prayers to his family."

The university also urged anyone with information about Pata's death to call police.

ESPN college football analyst Desmond Howard, who lives in Miami and was on campus Tuesday night, said coach Larry Coker was said to be "numb" at the news of Pata's death. Players met with Coker and coaches from other Miami sports gathered to lend Coker support.

The circumstances around Pata's death were not immediately clear, and Miami-Dade police did not say who made the 911 call after the shooting.

"They just shot him dead," Tonya Casimir, who identified herself as the player's cousin, told ESPN.com's Mark Schlabach by phone from the one of one of Pata's family members. "He's gone."

The 6-foot-4, 280-pound lineman was in his fourth year with the Hurricanes. He appeared in 41 games, making 23 starts, and was expected to be a first- or second-round pick in next spring's NFL draft.

Word spread quickly around campus, and grief counselors were quickly summoned to work with Pata's teammates.

Annette Ponnock, Miami's student body president, said Pata -- a fierce player on the field and somewhat soft-spoken off it -- was well known and popular on campus.

"Everyone is just more surprised than anything else," Ponnock said. "He's such a personality on campus. It was just really, really shocking to have such a loss. ... He was a big guy so it was kind of hard to miss him. He just had a presence about him."

The Hurricanes used Pata primarily at defensive tackle this season, and he had 13 tackles and two sacks.

Miami officials haven't yet decided whether the Hurricanes will practice the rest of the week or play Saturday's game at No. 23 Maryland, a school official said Tuesday night.

Atlantic Coast Conference commissioner John Swofford was aware of the shooting and was working with Miami officials to gather information, conference spokeswoman Amy Yakola said.

It was at least the fourth time that tragedy involving a player has struck the Hurricanes in recent years.

In April 1996, reserve linebacker and Miami native Marlin Barnes was murdered in a campus apartment. And in 2003, former Miami safety Al Blades was killed in a car accident, about a year after former Miami linebacker Chris Campbell -- who had just completed his eligibility with the Hurricanes -- also died in a crash.

Pata's death was the second incident involving guns this season for the Hurricanes.

In July, reserve safety Willie Cooper was shot in the buttocks when confronted in his yard before an early-morning workout. Cooper was not seriously injured. Brandon Meriweather, one of Cooper's teammates and roommates, returned fire at Cooper's assailant, taking three shots that apparently missed, police said.

Several Miami players, including Pata, said that incident was a robbery attempt, and cautioned other teammates to always be aware of their surroundings.

"We're targets because we play for the University of Miami. ... These guys, they know who we are," Miami linebacker Jon Beason said shortly after the Cooper shooting.

That incident prompted Coker to say that he did not want his players to have guns, even if they possessed them legally.

Pata played three seasons at North Miami High before moving on to Miami Central. He chose to attend the University of Miami after considering the Canes, Rutgers, Florida and Oklahoma.

Former South Carolina offensive tackle Woodly Telfort, who played football with Pata at North Miami, said he considered him a best friend and cousin.

"Brian was cool, calm and collective," Telfort told ESPN's Joe Schad on Tuesday night. "He would do anything for his friends. He was a guy everybody loved. Bryan never got in trouble with anybody. I have no clue who would do this to him."

Telfort said he'd spoken with Pata several says ago.

"He was talking about how it had been a tough season, but how things were looking good for him going to the NFL," Telfort said. "He was going to play in the NFL."

Said Miami Central coach Anthony Saunders: ''He was a great kid, a Christian. He had everything going for him. He was a role model and a motivator."

North Miami coach Leonard Graham said he was a father figure to Pata.

"Just like any other kid from the inner city, he was looking for a way out," Graham told ESPN's Schad. "He had his problems, but never had serious trouble. He had learned from his past experiences at Miami and had really grown up into a man."

Graham said Pata had for a time complained about playing time and had missed study halls.

"But I know the streets and to my knowledge he had no conflicts in the streets," Graham said, sobbing. "Maybe someone was jealous. Maybe someone tried to rob him. I have no idea why he was shot. I just know he was shot. I didn't know anyone that disliked him."

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.

1 comment:

zbar88 said...

This is scary but incredibly sad.....