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NFL legend Junior Seau was found dead in a shooting that police are investigating as a suicide, ESPN reports.
A woman who said she was Seau's girlfriend called 911 to report a possible suicide about 9:35 a.m., the police chief of Oceanside, Calif., told reporters. Officers found Seau in a bedroom at his home, with a gunshot wound to the chest.
Seau, a 43-year-old former linebacker who spent most of his NFL career with the San Diego Chargers, didn't seem depressed in recent weeks, entertainment website Zimbio reports. But his alleged suicide is being compared to that of another ex-NFL star, who also shot himself in the chest.
Junior Seau's death is similar to that of former Chicago Bears safety Dave Duerson, who also died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the chest last February. Duerson requested his brain be examined by scientists looking into the effects of severe head trauma, the International Business Times reports.
That same year, several ex-NFL players sued the NFL alleging the league covered up what it knew about the effects of traumatic brain injuries on players. Seau was not a party to the lawsuits.
Seau is now the eighth member of the San Diego Chargers' 1994 AFC Championship team to die before age 45, the Times reports. One ex-teammate, Curtis Whitley, died from a drug overdose in 2008. Whitley's family has sued the NFL for wrongful death, claiming head trauma caused paranoia, depression, and suicidal thoughts, according to the Times.
An autopsy showed signs of severe head trauma -- also known as Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy, or CTE -- in Whitley's brain. Based on past events, investigators may look for similar signs of CTE during Seau's likely autopsy.
Under California law, suspected suicides -- along with homicides and "violent, sudden, or unusual deaths" -- automatically trigger a forensic autopsy. An autopsy generally takes weeks to complete.
Junior Seau's death is also raising questions about his mental state in a car crash in October 2010. Seau drove his SUV off a cliff after police arrested him in a domestic violence investigation, ESPN reports. Seau suffered minor injuries and told police he'd fallen asleep behind the wheel.
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