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Former NFL wide receiver Reche Caldwell killed outside home in Tampa; does not appear random, police say

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(Photo by Robert B. Stanton/NFLPhotoLibrary)

Former NFL wideout Donald “Reche” Caldwell was shot and killed outside his home in Tampa, Fla., on Sunday in what police believe was not a random act.

Caldwell, 41, was reportedly ambushed by at least two persons who jumped out of some bushes and attacked him, according to his girlfriend who witnessed the attack.

“Upon arrival, officers located an adult male victim of a gunshot wound in the front yard of a residence. Officers immediately began providing life-saving measures,” according to a statement from Tampa police, TMZ reports.

“Tampa Fire Rescue arrived and transported the victim to a nearby hospital, where he was pronounced deceased,” the department said.

“This does not appear to be a random act. However, it is very early in the investigation and detectives are working to develop leads in the case. Updates will be provided as they become available,” said the statement.

Caldwell’s girlfriend told police that the two of them were preparing to go out to dinner when he returned to his home to retrieve a jacket. At that point, she told police that he was “ambushed” by “a couple of people” who leaped out of some bushes in an apparent robbery attempt.

The former wide receiver was reportedly shot in the leg and chest.

“He was a good person who smiled all of the time,” his mother, Deborah Caldwell, said, according to TMZ.

“He tried to help everyone he could. He was the type of guy who would take his shirt off his back and give it to you,” she added, 

Caldwell was a standout at the University of Florida. He was drafted in the second round in 2002 by the San Diego Chargers and played seven seasons in the league including a stint with Tom Brady and the New England Patriots and the Washington Redskins before retiring while with the then-St. Louis Rams.

He was a member of the Patriots team that lost to the Indianapolis Colts during the AFC Championship game in 2006. He dropped a pair of passes in that game, NBC News reported.

“We are deeply saddened to learn of the death of former Patriot Reche Caldwell,” the Patriots said in a statement. “Our thoughts and prayers are with his family and friends.”

“Always kept us laughing and light-hearted. Always had the biggest smile. Always had the greatest stories,” former Patriots teammate and tight end Benjamin Watson. “Sad to hear about the passing of my teammate Reche Caldwell. May the Lord comfort his family during this time.”

In 2015, Caldwell was handed a sentence of 27 months in federal prison following a guilty plea for a drug charge, according to the Tampa Bay Times. Authorities said he accepted a parcel with 1.5 kilos of ethylene in May 2014. Afterward, investigators found that he had shipped a parcel to Atlanta a few days later with 1 kilogram of the drug, the Times said.

While still in prison, Caldwell told ESPN in 2016 that he took responsibility for his own actions and wasn’t going to blame them on anyone else.

“I’m not gonna blame football or concussions like everybody else for my mistakes,” Caldwell said. “I don’t blame my education or my hometown or my family. I have a great family. I had a great childhood. I grew up in a great place. This is about losing my way, being around bad people and making bad choices, and that’s all on me.”

He was also listed as one of 10 former NFL players who are involved in an alleged scheme to defraud Medicare, according to a Justice Department press release in December.

The department said that the 10 players allegedly defrauded the Gene Upshaw NFL Player Health Reimbursement Account Plan, which was established as part of the 2006 collective bargaining agreement between the league and players.

The objective of the plan was to cover otherwise uncovered medical expenses for each player up to a maximum of $350,000. DoJ said in charging documents that over $3.9 million in false and fraudulent claims were submitted and that $3.4 million was paid out between June 2017 and December 2018.

Jon Dougherty

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