21 Dec 1997: Linebacker Junior Seau of the San Diego Chargers during the Chargers 38-3 loss to the Denver Broncos at Mile High Stadium in Denver, Broncos.
Former Miami Dolphins linebacker Junior Seau was found dead of a self-inflicted gunshot wound inside his Oceanside home Wednesday, officials confirmed.
The news surfaced after a woman, who officials said identified herself as Junior Seau’s girlfriend, called 911 at about 9:30 a.m. to report a shooting.
She had found Seau, 43, in one of the bedrooms of the NFL player's home on South Strand Boulevard with a gunshot wound to the chest.
A handgun was found next to the body, according to Oceanside police.
Oceanside Police Chief Frank McCoy confirmed the case will be investigated as a suicide.
That announcement led to gasps in the crowd of approximately 250 people standing outside the home.
Family members and friends had been gathering in the driveway of the home, hugging and crying throughout the morning.
They included the Oceanside High School alum's parents, Tianina and Luisa Seau.
Seau's mother, obviously very emotional and in the arms of the family's pastor, spoke outside the home. She looked up to the sky and screamed Junior's name.
"I don’t understand," Luisa Seau told the bank of television cameras and crowds of fans who had gathered along the bike path next to the shore. "I don’t know anything."
People in the crowd shouted "We love you Mrs. Seau!"
Seau's sister asked the media to give the family, and her famous brother, some privacy.
“My brother was a loving brother, a caring citizen. I just wish you guys would just honor his last day and give him some privacy,” said his sister, Annette.
Chief McCoy recognized the cumulative grief felt by residents in his community when he said, “Our hearts and prayers as a city go out to the Seau family.
A police escort followed the medical examiner's van as it carried Seau's body through the streets of Oceanside.
When the van first pulled away from the home, fans in the crowed yelled out "We love you Junior!" and "Rest in Peace."
Seau played for the Dolphins for three seasons from 2003 to 2005 before finishing out his career with the New England Patriots. He was best known for his tenure with the Chargers from 1990 to 2002. He was voted to 12 consecutive Pro Bowls from 1991 to 2002.
"We are stunned and saddened at the passing of Junior Seau. During his time with the Dolphins he made a unique contribution to the team and the South Florida Community," Dolphins CEO Mike Dee said in an email statement.
"Junior was one-of-a-kind. The league will never see anyone like him again. He will be missed, and behalf of the Miami Dolphins we want to extend our condolences to his family," the statement said.
Former Dolphins linebacker Zach Thomas also issued a statement.
"Getting the chance to play alongside of Junior Seau, the greatest linebacker to ever play the game, made my dreams come true. I am absolutely devastated to hear this news. Today I lost my hero, my friend, my buddy," Thomas said.
Chargers owner Dean Spanos, upon leaving Murphy Canyon training facility, told NBCSanDiego he was "stunned, shocked" and sent his condolences to Seau’s family.
The former Charger averaged 100 tackles a season and nearly seven tackles per game during his 17-year career, according the NFL.
Seau was a star linebacker at the University of Southern California before he became a Charger.
He retired from football in 2009, according to the NFL.
Seau continued to be a major part of the Charger culture after his retirement from football.
He opened a restaurant in Mission Valley called “Seau’s The Restaurant” in 1996 and it has been a destination on game day for the last 16 years.
In October 2010, Seau sustained injuries when his SUV crashed at the bottom of a Carlsbad cliff.
Oceanside police arrested Seau on a felony domestic violence charge.
Then, hours after his release from custody, Seau was found behind the wheel of an SUV that had crashed over a cliff onto the beach below.