Police in Florida are investigating the brutal killing of a youth football coach who was gunned down after finishing practice with some of his players most of whom were seven years old.
The victim, 43-year-old Dave Williams, was reportedly just walking off the field used by the Fort Lauderdale Hurricanes, part of a Florida American football youth league, when he spotted several men headed in his direction and told the children to scatter.
Within moments, Mr Williams was gunned down with his wards as well as hundreds of parents, onlookers and other athletes looking on in horror. He was rushed to a local hospital, where he was pronounced dead late on Thursday evening.
For now, investigators say they still have no information on a possible motive for the slaying of Mr Williams, who owned a local carwash in the popular tourist town and had worked as a volunteer coach for the Hurricanes for twelve years.
With no one in custody, the police department is appealing to the onlookers who witnessed the killing to come forward with any descriptions they may have of the men who confronted Mr Williams and left immediately upon gunning him down.
“This is an active investigation and the circumstances surrounding this incident are still being determined,” Fort Lauderdale Detective Kevin Dupree said in a statement. “He was approached by several subjects. They took off on foot.”
Some reports said that Mr Williams had just bought the very young players some soft drinks and biscuits to mark the end of the practice when the aggressors first appeared. No one else among all those on the edges of the field was injured, officials said. They also included other coaches as well as young football cheerleaders.
“It’s a sad day,” Jamaal Gaines, president of the Fort Lauderdale Hurricanes youth football club, told the Fort Lauderdale Sun Sentinel. “I feel so bad that it happened around what we were trying to do for the children in our city…I don’t know why he was targeted,” Mr Gaines told the paper.
“We’re doing a great job for the community,” Mr Gaines added. “I pray this doesn’t impact the programme.” He noted that while police officers are present at the league’s games they don’t patrol the field during practices.
Martin Maultsby, president of the Florida Youth Football League, said that games that had been planned for this weekend against the Miami Gardens Chiefs had been cancelled.
“Everything just happened so rapidly, and it’s not a norm or common. It’s an anomaly,” Mr Maultsby said. “This is not the place for this kind of violence. I’ve been in (youth football) for over 20 years, and this is the first one.”
Mr Gaines said he was nearby the shooting when it happened. “I just heard the shots, ran in that direction and found one of my coaches on the ground fighting for his life,” he recalled.