Police rule ex-quarterback’s death a homicide

Officials won’t say whether it was murder-suicide

Police removed a body from the Nashville condominium where former NFL quarterback Steve McNair died Saturday. Police removed a body from the Nashville condominium where former NFL quarterback Steve McNair died Saturday. (Ed Rode/ Associated Press)
By Teresa M. Walker
Associated Press / July 6, 2009
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NASHVILLE - Shot twice in the head and two more times in the chest, former NFL quarterback Steve McNair was the victim of a homicide, police declared yesterday. But authorities wouldn’t say it was a murder-suicide - even with his 20-year-old girlfriend dead at his feet from a single bullet.

McNair had been dating Saleh Kazemi for several months, and Don Aaron, Nashville police spokesman, said yesterday that a semiautomatic pistol was found under her body. She had been shot in the head.

McNair, who was married with four sons, had a permit to carry a handgun in Tennessee, and he was arrested once before with a 9mm weapon, although charges in the case were dropped. Police said they had not determined who owned the gun found at the scene.

Investigators weren’t looking for a suspect but were questioning friends of the couple, as well as Kazemi’s former boyfriend. They were also waiting for results of drug and other laboratory tests before deciding whether McNair was killed in a lovers’ quarrel.

“That’s a very important part of the investigation as we work to ultimately classify Miss Kazemi’s death,’’ Aaron said.

The details surfacing after McNair’s death stand in stark contrast to the public persona he enjoyed during his career.

McNair repeatedly played through serious injuries and pain to win, though he came up a yard short of forcing overtime on the Tennessee Titans’ famous drive in the 2000 Super Bowl.

Generous, he frequently was involved in charity work for the Titans and later the Baltimore Ravens after a 2006 trade. McNair even helped load donated food, water, and clothes onto tractor-trailers that he had arranged for Hurricane Katrina victims, and paid for three football camps for children this year.

McNair and Kazemi were found dead at a Nashville condominium that overlooks the Titans’ stadium. He rented it with his friend Wayne Neeley. Police believe McNair and Kazemi died early Saturday. Neeley found the bodies hours later, and called a friend, Robert Gaddy, who played at Alcorn State with McNair. Gaddy dialed 911.

“People have certain things that they do in life,’’ Gaddy said. “We don’t need to look on the situation at this time [but] on the fact we just lost a great member of society.’’

The quarterback’s agent, Bus Cook, said he had never heard Kazemi’s name until news of the shooting broke Saturday. What McNair’s wife knew wasn’t clear Sunday. Cook said Mechelle McNair was “in and out of it.’’ He said she had no comment after the police called his death a homicide.

“It doesn’t make any sense. I don’t know what to say,’’ Cook said.

Mechelle was “very upset, very distraught’’ yesterday, Cook said. She was preparing to finish funeral arrangements today.

McNair split his time between Nashville and his farm in Mount Olive, Miss. He recently opened a restaurant near Tennessee State University that was aimed at serving healthy, affordable food to college students.

McNair met Kazemi when his family ate often at the Dave & Buster’s restaurant she worked at as a server, and the two began dating in a relationship that included a vacation with parasailing. Photos posted on showed McNair gazing and smiling at the young Kazemi.

McNair and Kazemi were together Thursday night when she was pulled over and arrested on a drunken driving charge.

A man who answered the door at a house in the Jacksonville, Fla., suburb of Orange Park said it was the home of Kazemi’s family, but said her relatives did not want to comment.

“We don’t have anything to say; please leave us alone,’’ he said.

Kazemi had expected McNair to get a divorce, the victim’s sister, Soheyla Kazemi, told the Florida Times-Union in Jacksonville. “She said they were planning to get married.’’

Nashville courts had no record of a McNair divorce case.

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