Donald “Reche” Caldwell, a former NFL player who played for the San Diego Chargers, New England Patriots and Washington Redskins, was shot and killed in Tampa, Florida, on Saturday, June 6, at age 41.
TMZ reports that Caldwell was ambushed in front of his home when he was going out on a late-evening date with his girlfriend. After first leaving the house, he went back inside to retrieve a jacket. His girlfriend said that a “couple of people” who were hiding in the bushes then leaped out to rob him.
Caldwell was shot in his chest and leg and passed away in an ambulance en route to the hospital. Police don’t believe the robbery attempt was random, and Caldwell’s mother doesn’t either.
“He was set up,” said Deborah Caldwell while speaking to the Tampa Bay Times. “I’m going to follow it all the way to the end. … You get killed right here in your hometown? You made a statement here, and y’all just took it away from us?”
Caldwell, a wide receiver, who attended the University of Florida, made his NFL start with the Chargers after being selected in the second round of the 2002 NFL draft. He ended his career in 2008 after signing with the St. Louis Rams, then being released before the season started.
As a student at Tampa’s Jefferson High School, Caldwell was also a standout baseball player. He was drafted by the Cincinnati Reds in 1998 but stuck with football.
The Patriots sent a statement on their official Twitter page after news of his death was reported.
“We are deeply saddened to learn of the death of former Patriot Reche Caldwell,” the message read. “Our thoughts and prayers are with his family and friends.”
Some of Caldwell’s former New England teammates, like Benjamin Watson, also reacted to the tragic news.
“Always kept us laughing and light hearted,” Watson tweeted on Sunday. “Always had the biggest smile. Always had the greatest stories. Sad to hear about the passing of my teammate Reche Caldwell. May the Lord comfort his family during this time.”
There haven’t been any suspects named yet, and police are asking the public to phone Crime Stoppers at 1-800-873-TIPS for assistance.
“He was a good person who smiled all of the time,” said Deborah Caldwell about her son. “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.”
Caldwell had 152 receptions when he left the NFL, with 1,851 yards and 11 touchdowns.
Caldwell will be laid to rest on June 20 at First Baptist of West Tampa.