- The Washington Times - Sunday, July 5, 2009

Former NFL MVP Steve McNair and a 20-year-old woman were shot and killed Saturday in Nashville, Tenn., police said.

A pistol was found near the body of the woman, identified by police as Sahel Kazemi, a “friend” of McNair’s.

The 36-year-old McNair had suffered multiple gunshot wounds, including to the head. Kazemi had been shot once in the head. Police said McNair was found on the sofa in the living room and Kazemi was very close to him on the floor. Nashville police spokesman Don Aaron said the gun was not “readily apparent” when police first arrived.

Autopsies were planned for Sunday.

Aaron said several people have been taken to police headquarters for questioning in the killings but added there were no suspects yet.

Aaron said McNair’s wife, Mechelle, was “very distraught” and that police do not believe she is involved.

“Nothing has been ruled out, but as far as actively looking for a suspect tonight, the answer would be no,” Aaron said.

Washington Redskins quarterback Jason Campbell, who considers McNair one of his role models, said: “It’s real sad. Right now, you can’t put [how I feel] into words, a real shock.”

The bodies were discovered Saturday afternoon by McNair’s longtime friend Wayne Neeley, who said he rents the condo with McNair.

Aaron said Neeley told authorities he went into the condo, saw McNair on the sofa and Kazemi on the floor but walked first into the kitchen before going back into the living room, where he saw the blood.

Neeley then called a friend, who alerted authorities.

Aaron said police were contacted at 1:30 p.m. Central time Saturday but no determination had been made regarding when McNair and Kazemi were killed.

Police said a witness saw McNair arrive at the condo between 1:30 and 2 a.m. Saturday and that Kazemi’s vehicle was already there.

On Thursday, Nashville police arrested Kazemi on a DUI charge while driving a 2007 Escalade registered to her and McNair. McNair was in the front seat but didn’t break the law and was allowed to leave by taxi.

Aaron said officers went to the condo complex Saturday after receiving a call about injured persons inside the condo.

“When police officers arrived in response to that call, they found two individuals who had been shot to death inside the residence,” he said.

About 50 people crowded just beyond police tape outside the complex in the upscale Rutledge Hill neighborhood, some wearing Titans hats. The condominium is located within walking distance of an area filled with restaurants and nightspots, a few blocks from the Cumberland River and within view of the Titans’ stadium.

“We’re family, and we built a close bond in the years we played together,” receiver Derrick Mason, who played with McNair for 10 years in Tennessee and Baltimore, told ESPN. “It’s something that’s hard for me to believe.”

NFL commissioner Roger Goodell said in a statement, “We don’t know the details, but it is a terrible tragedy and our hearts go out to the families involved.”

McNair shared league MVP honors in 2003 with Peyton Manning when he threw for 3,215 yards and 24 touchdowns. He also led the Titans to Super Bowl XXXIV and made three Pro Bowls in his 13 NFL seasons.

“We are saddened and shocked to hear the news of Steve McNair’s passing today,” Titans owner Bud Adams said in a statement. “He was one of the finest players to play for our organization and one of the most beloved players by our fans. He played with unquestioned heart and leadership and led us to places that we had never reached, including our only Super Bowl. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family as they deal with his untimely passing.”

Added Redskins secondary coach Jerry Gray: “Steve was a very close friend. He was a tremendous competitor and a great guy to be around. Young players could learn a great deal from the way that he played the game. You hate to see a guy like Steve lose his life at such a young age. My thoughts and prayers are with the McNair family.”

McNair and his wife had four sons, including Steve Jr., a rising senior star receiver at Oak Grove High School in Hattiesburg, Miss. McNair had opened a restaurant, Gridiron9, in Nashville on June 19.

McNair played for Division I-AA Alcorn State in Mississippi, where he finished third in the Heisman Trophy balloting as a senior. The Houston Oilers believed so strongly in his gifts as a passer and runner that they chose him third overall in the 1995 draft.

After the franchise moved to Tennessee, McNair and the Titans won the 1999 AFC championship but fell just short in the Super Bowl against St. Louis.

In 2006, McNair was traded to the Ravens for a fourth-round draft choice.

McNair quarterbacked the Ravens to a 13-3 record and the AFC North title. But injuries limited McNair to seven games in 2007, prompting his retirement the following April.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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