Junior Seau dead at 43; medical examiner rules suicide

Junior Seau, a homegrown superstar who was the fist-pumping, emotional leader of the San Diego Chargers for 13 years, was found shot to death at his Oceanside, Calif., home Wednesday morning. He was 43. On Thursday, the San Diego County medical examiner ruled his death a suicide.

"We believe it was a suicide," Oceanside Police Lt. Leonard Mata said. "There is no indication of foul play."

The San Diego County medical examiner classified Seau's death a suicide on Thursday.

Police Chief Frank McCoy said Seau's girlfriend reported finding him unconscious in one of the bedrooms with a gunshot wound to the chest and lifesaving efforts were unsuccessful. A gun was found near him, McCoy said. Police said no suicide note was found and they didn't immediately know who the gun was registered to.

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Further details of the shooting weren't immediately released.

"I don't understand ... I'm shocked," Seau's mother, Luisa, cried as she addressed reporters gathered outside her son's home.

Her son gave no indication of a problem when she spoke to him by phone earlier this week, she said.

"He's joking to me, he called me a 'homegirl,' " she said.

According to U-T San Diego, Seau texted his ex-wife, Gina, and their three children individual messages on Tuesday, saying: "I love you."

"We're all in shock," she said. "We're beyond sad and beyond shocked. The kids and I are just huddled together at home. There is no way to make sense of this."

"All of us are deeply saddened about Junior Seau, a great player loved by teammates who also worked hard to serve his community," NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said in a statement released by the league. "Junior and his family will remain in our thoughts."

"I have no words to describe the passing of Junior Seau," Chargers coach Norv Turner said in a statement released by the team. "It is a sad, sad day for not only me, but for the whole sports community. I worked with Junior here and later in Miami. I can tell you no one had more character and true leadership ability than Junior. He brought passion to the game of football that was unmatched. His commitment to charitable causes in the community was inspiring. It was an honor to know him. My thoughts and prayers are with his family."

Chargers president Dean Spanos said: "I can't put into words how I'm feeling right now. I'm shocked and devastated. Junior was my friend. We all lost a friend today. Junior was an icon in our community. He transcended the game. He wasn't just a football player, he was so much more. He was loved by everyone in our family, our organization and throughout the NFL. This is just such a tragic loss. One of the worst things I could ever imagine. My prayers go out to Junior's family. It's heartbreaking."

Miami Dolphins CEO Mike Dee praised Seau's impact on the South Florida community during his time with the team.

"Junior was one-of-a-kind. The league will never see anyone like him again," Dee said in a release. "He will be missed, and on behalf of the Miami Dolphins we want to extend our condolences to his family."

"We were shocked to hear of the initial reports regarding Junior Seau earlier today and are deeply saddened by the news of his death," the New England Patriots said in a release. "We were fortunate to have had Junior join the Patriots in 2006 and are thankful for his many contributions to the team over the next four years. He had a legendary NFL career and his unrivaled passion for the game quickly made him a fan favorite here in New England. This is a sad day for the entire Patriots organization, our coaches and his many Patriots teammates. Our heartfelt thoughts and prayers go out to his family and his many friends who will mourn this loss."

Chargers chaplain Shawn Mitchell said he knew Seau well and that the football player hosted Bible studies at his home. He said he visited Seau in the hospital after his car accident in 2010 and he was crying, happy that he had survived.

"He was just grateful to be alive ... and he said the angel of God had protected him," Mitchell said.

"He was Superman, and Superman is no longer with us," Mitchell told NFL Network.

Family friend Priscilla Sanga said about 50 friends and family members gathered in the garage where Seau's body lay on a gurney, and they had the opportunity to say goodbye.

"Everybody got to see Junior before they took him away," Sanga said. "He looked so peaceful and cold. It was disbelief. We all touched him and kissed him."

Seau said last August after the Chargers announced he would be inducted into the team's Hall of Fame that, "to be part of this kind of fraternity, to be able to go out and play the game that you love, and all the lessons and the friends and acquaintances which you meet along the way, you can't be in a better arena."

In October 2010, Seau survived a 100-foot plunge down a seaside cliff in his SUV, hours after he was arrested for investigation of domestic violence at the home he shared with his girlfriend. The woman had told authorities that Seau assaulted her during an argument.

There was no evidence of drugs or alcohol involved in the crash, and Seau told authorities he fell asleep while driving. He sustained minor injuries.

Seau ended his career in 2009, after playing 20 years in the NFL -- 13 in San Diego, three in Miami and four in New England. He was selected to 12 consecutive Pro Bowls while with the Chargers and was named first-team All-Pro six times. He amassed 545 tackles and 56.5 sacks in his NFL career.

Seau led the 1994 Chargers to their only Super Bowl appearance at Super Bowl XXIX.

Seau was a graduate of Oceanside High School. He was drafted fifth overall out of USC by the Chargers in 1990.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.