Denver Broncos cornerback Darrent Williams was killed early Monday when his white stretch Hummer was sprayed by bullets after a nightclub dispute following a New Year's Eve party.
Police have no motive and no indication the 24-year-old player was targeted in the drive-by shooting of the limousine. The burst of violence occurred hours after the Broncos were eliminated from playoff contention.
"All of us are devastated by this tragedy," Broncos owner Pat Bowlen said in a statement. "To lose a young player, and more important, a great young man such as Darrent Williams, is incomprehensible. To lose him in such a senseless manner as this is beyond words."
A little after 2 a.m., the limousine was fired on from a vehicle that pulled up along its side, hitting three people, police spokesman Sonny Jackson said. As many as a dozen bullet holes were visible on the driver's side of the vehicle. One window was blown out.
Another man and a woman who were shot were not identified. They were taken to St. Anthony Central Hospital, where one of them was released.
Coach Mike Shanahan said the killing left him "speechless with sadness."
"We all know that Darrent was an excellent player, but as a person, he was a first-class young man who brightened every room with his smile, attitude and personality," Shanahan said. "I cannot express how heartsick I feel at this loss."
Jackson said there was a dispute at a nightclub several blocks from the shooting where Williams and his group had attended a party. He said the argument didn't specifically involve Williams, according to witnesses, and the confrontation wasn't physical, just taunts. He also said there were no shots fired from inside the limo.
"Why this happened, we're not sure," Jackson said.
Police were searching for a white Suburban or Tahoe with dark-tinted windows. Jackson wouldn't identify any of the other passengers, nor would he confirm whether any other Broncos players were in the limo, which can hold 23 people.
The club identified by police advertised a New Year's Eve event celebrating the birthday of Denver Nuggets basketball player Kenyon Martin.
Williams was a second-round draft choice in 2005 out of Oklahoma State and teamed with Champ Bailey to give Denver one of the NFL's top cornerback tandems. Williams finished the season with 88 tackles, 78 of them solo, and four interceptions.
His college coach, Mike Gundy, called the death a "tragic loss for the Broncos family, Oklahoma State University and anyone who knew Darrent Williams. It's a loss that goes far beyond the football field."
Players and coaches didn't have to report to work Monday, but about 20 of them gathered at team headquarters to console each other, including receiver Javon Walker, who was in the limo when Williams was killed, according to several Denver media organizations.