Hurricanes lineman shot, killed following practice


University of Miami defensive end Bryan Pata was shot and killed Tuesday night, shortly after leaving the practice field, school officials said. He was 22.

The circumstances around Pata's death were not immediately clear, and Miami-Dade police refused to release specific information about what happened. A formal announcement was expected from the university later Tuesday.

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

A woman who answered telephone at the home of one of Pata's family members, who identified herself as the player's cousin, said Pata was shot to death.

"They just shot him dead," Tonya Casimir told ESPN.com's Mark Schlabach. "He's gone."

Casimir said Miami-Dade County Police haven't told Pata's family any details about the shooting.

"They're not saying anything to nobody yet," Casimir said.

Pata, a graduate of Miami Central High School, was in his fourth year with the Hurricanes. He appeared in 41 games, making 23 starts, and was expected to be selected in next spring's NFL draft. The 6-foot-4, 280-pound senior took over the starting role at left defensive end for head coach Larry Coker over the latter part of the 2004 season and had held it since.

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. In 2003, former Miami safety Al Blades was killed in a car accident, about a year after former Miami linebacker Chris Campbell -- who just had 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 he did not want his players to have guns, even if they possessed them legally.

Information from ESPN.com college football writer Mark Schlabach and The Associated Press was used in this report.