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Michael Westbrook Shocked, Heartbroken Over Rashaan Salaam's Death

12/7/2016 9:20 AM PST BY TMZ STAFF
EXCLUSIVE

Michael Westbrook says he's devastated over the death of his U of Colorado teammate, Rashaan Salaam ... saying he's in "utter shock" and wishes he could've helped his friend.

Westbrook and Salaam DOMINATED as a WR, RB combo in college -- especially during their 11-1 season in 1994 (the year Rashaan won the Heisman). 

Michael says he's been an emotional wreck since learning about Rashaan's death this week -- and says looking back, there may have been a warning sign.

Westbrook says Salaam missed an event at the Colorado Hall of Fame last month -- and teammates scrambled to get in contact with him. Teammates were puzzled at his absence but didn't think much of it.

"I think that maybe should've been a sign or something for us." 

(Obviously, Westbrook couldn't have known he was in as bad of a place as he was)

Westbrook goes on to share his favorite memories with Rashaan ... from always having a smile on his face to giving his offensive line all the credit for his 2,000 yard season.

R.I.P. 

Rashaan Salaam Heisman Winner Dead at 42 Body Discovered In Park

12/6/2016 12:26 PM PST BY TMZ STAFF
Exclusive Details

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update_graphic_red_bar3:17 PM PT -- Cops now suspect Salaam's death was suicide and say a note has been recovered at the scene. 

Officials have still not released the cause of death. 

update-grey-gray-barEx-Heisman Trophy winner Rashaan Salaam -- a superstar running back for the Colorado Buffaloes -- has died at age 42 ... his family confirmed. 

Officials tell TMZ Sports ... Salaam's body was discovered in a parking lot at Eben G. Fine Park in Boulder, Colorado late Monday night. 

We're told there were no obvious signs of foul play. An autopsy is scheduled to be performed. 

Salaam won the Heisman in 1994 -- beating out guys like Steve McNair, Warren Sapp and Kerry Collins. 

He was later drafted by the Bears in the 1st round of the 1995 Draft but only spent a few seasons in the NFL. 

Salaam went on to run an organization dedicated to helping underprivileged kids. 

Salaam's death was first reported by Adam Schefter.

Joe McKnight Case Sheriff Drops N-Bomb, F-Bomb In Bizarre News Conference

12/6/2016 8:44 AM PST BY TMZ STAFF

Sheriff Newell Normand is firing back at the people who have criticized him for the way he's handling the Joe McKnight shooting investigation ... and just read OUT LOUD some of the hateful comments he and other leaders have received, including the n-word and the f-word. 

Sheriff Normand says he and other leaders have received letters using various racial and homophobic slurs. He did not water down the language.

When asked why he decided to read the hateful language out loud, Normand says he wanted to show people how "crazy" things have gotten ... where people are getting harassed for doing their jobs. 

The conversation turned racial and Normand says black people are more likely to be killed by black people in his community. 

Rapper Big Syke Tupac Collaborator Dead at 48

12/6/2016 9:05 AM PST BY TMZ STAFF
EXCLUSIVE

1206_remembering_big_syke_tupac_launchThe rapper who helped people picture Tupac rollin' has died.

TMZ has learned Big Syke was found dead at his home in Hawthorne, CA late Monday night. Law enforcement sources tell us cops responded first to a call to the scene, and then the L.A. County Coroner arrived. No foul play is suspected. 

Sources close to the situation tell us Syke -- real name Tyruss Himes -- is believed to have died from natural causes, although an autopsy has yet to be performed. We're told he had a history of heart issues and obesity.

Big Syke was a longtime friend of Tupac, and dropped verses on a bunch of his tracks, such as "All Eyez on Me," "Picture Me Rollin'" and "Check Out Time." He was also a member of Tupac's Thug Life group.

He was 48. 

Ronald Gasser Arrested for Manslaughter ... Mug Shot

12/6/2016 6:11 AM PST BY TMZ STAFF
Breaking News

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The man who shot and killed ex-NFL running back Joe McKnight in an apparent road rage incident has been arrested for manslaughter ... this according to police records. 

The Jefferson Parish Sheriff's Dept. website shows 54-year-old Ronald Gasser was arrested on Monday night. He is being held without bond.

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Gasser admitted to shooting McKnight 3 times during an altercation on Dec. 1st. Cops detained Gasser and questioned him after the shooting but he was released without charges hours after the incident.

It's unclear what has changed in the case between now and then.

Officials say the two were arguing and McKnight was shot while standing at the passenger window of Gasser's car while Gasser was in the driver's seat.

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'Game of Thrones' Star Dead at 93

12/6/2016 6:35 AM PST BY TMZ STAFF
Breaking News

1206-peter-vaughan-actor-HBO-01Peter Vaughan, the veteran British actor who gained a new following with his recurring role on "Game of Thrones" ... died Tuesday morning.

Vaughan's agent says the actor died peacefully this morning around 10:30 surrounded by his family. Vaughan played Maester Aemon -- the former leader of the Night's Watch -- on the hit show from 2011 until 2015.

During his 75 years in show biz ... Vaughan starred in several British TV series and feature films. He co-starred with the likes of Sir Anthony Hopkins, Clive Owens, and Frank Sinatra.

Vaughan was 93.

Margaret Whitton 'Major League' Star Dies at 67

12/5/2016 3:00 PM PST BY TMZ STAFF
Breaking News

1205-Margaret-WhittonMargaret Whitton -- who played Indians owner Rachel Phelps in "Major League" -- has died at age 67.

She died peacefully at her home in Florida after a brief battle with cancer, this according to The Hollywood Reporter.

Whitton was GREAT in the 'Major League' movies -- playing an owner rooting against her team so she could relocate 'em from Cleveland to Miami.

Her most memorable scene ... when she crashed the Indians locker room when Lou Brown was complaining about the "bitch" who runs the team ... and responded, "You wanted to talk to the bitch?"

Awesome.

Besides "Major League," Whitton also appeared in "Little Monsters," "The Man Without a Face" and "9 1/2 Weeks" and more.

R.I.P.

Florence Henderson Death Certificate History Of Heart Issues

12/5/2016 2:35 PM PST BY TMZ STAFF
EXCLUSIVE

1205-florence-henderson-tmzFlorence Henderson secretly battled serious heart issues for 10 years before she died of a heart attack ... this according to her death certificate obtained by TMZ.

The 'Brady Bunch' star passed away at UCLA Medical Center in Santa Monica on Nov. 24th. 

The death certificate notes she suffered from heart disease for 10 years. 

5 years ago, Henderson was diagnosed with an irregular heartbeat. 

The death certificate also notes Henderson was in the entertainment industry for 64 years ... legend. 

R.I.P. 

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Joe McKnight New Photo of Gasser After Shooting ... Witness Says He Screamed At Body

12/3/2016 12:50 AM PST BY TMZ STAFF
EXCLUSIVE

1202-joe-mcknight-shooter-ronald-gasser-picture-scene-of-accident-crime-TMZ-SPORTS-01TMZ Sports has obtained a photo of Ronald Gasser moments after he shot Joe McKnight ... and the witness who took the photo says he WAS yelling at McKnight's body after the fatal shots were fired.

The person who took the photo says the item on Ronald's blue Infiniti is the gun he used to shoot the ex-NFL running back. 

The witness -- who is NOT the same person who spoke with NOLA.com -- says she heard the two men arguing on Thursday afternoon ... while she was visiting a nearby business. The witness says she spoke with officers at the scene and gave them her information but hasn't heard from them since.

After the shots were fired, the witness says she distinctly remembers seeing Gasser over McKnight's body ... and heard him yelling at the downed football star, "I told you I was going to f**k you up."

She says Gasser was pacing back and forth with his gun in his hand for a few moments after the shooting ... and then put the gun on the trunk of his car.

The witness says Gasser then took the gun and put it inside of his car while waiting for police to arrive.

When cops arrived, we're told he calmly informed officers the gun was inside his car and was cooperative.

We reached out to the Jefferson Parish Sheriff's Dept. for comment but haven't heard back -- however, officials are adamant Gasser did NOT fire a shot while standing over McKnight's body. 

The JPSO says it's still investigating the case and hunting for more witnesses.

Joe McKnight Sheriffs Patrolling Shooter's Home

12/2/2016 10:30 AM PST BY TMZ STAFF
Exclusive Details

1202_mcknight_killer_Cops-Keeping-Him-SafeThe Jefferson Parish Sheriff's Dept. has dispatched at least 2 cars to patrol the home of the man who shot and killed Joe McKnight ... TMZ Sports has learned.

We spoke with neighbors who live near Ronald Gasser in Gretna, Louisiana who tell us there is one car parked across the street from his home and another car patrolling the area. We're told the cars have been around for the past couple of hours.

We reached out to the JPSD for comment multiple times -- but they won't comment. 

TMZ Sports broke the story ... Gasser was released from police custody in the middle of the night and not charged with a crime. Cops have said he "definitely" fired the shots that killed McKnight. 

The investigation is ongoing.

Brian Cushing 'Very Distraught' Over Joe McKnight

12/2/2016 8:38 AM PST BY TMZ STAFF
EXCLUSIVE

1202-brian-cushing-joe-mcknight-getty-02Brian Cushing is taking the death of his former USC teammate, Joe McKnight, very hard ... so says Brian's friend Zac Diles

Zac -- who played on the Houston Texans with Cushing -- says he spoke with the linebacker hours after the news broke about McKnight ... and he's "very, very distraught."

Cushing has posted the following statement about McKnight:

"Joe I'll never forget the time we had together at SC. It was unbelievable to see you grow and work your ass off from a freshman until the day you were drafted."

"We competed every day in practice only wanting the best for each other. I'm absolutely crushed to hear the news today about you being gone. I'll never forget what you accomplished and how far you came as a player and a person. RIP Joe McKnight."

Joe McKnight CFL Teammates 'In Disbelief' 'He Was The Coolest Dude Ever'

12/2/2016 12:45 AM PST BY TMZ STAFF
EXCLUSIVE

1201_joe_mcknight_Saskatchewan-RoughridersJoe McKnight's CFL teammates are "in total disbelief" he was killed in a road rage incident ... with one member of the squad telling TMZ Sports McKnight was "the coolest dude ever" and would never get violent.

We spoke to Jeff Knox -- the starting middle linebacker for the Saskatchewan Roughriders of the CFL -- who tells us the team was shaken to the core when they heard the sad news.

"We have a team group chat, no one believed it at first. I was like NO WAY this could happen to Joe, the guy never looked for any trouble, just wanted to play football and get home to his kids."

Witnesses say McKnight was actually attempting to apologize to his gunman before he was killed ... and, according to Knox, that's exactly who he was.

"He might have saw his hair and thought he was just some random hoodlum, not knowing he was a pro athlete with a family. I never met a nicer guy, we used to go at it on the field, if he ever cut me, or blocked me wrong he apologized."

Joe McKnight USC Teammates Mourn Loss 'He'll Definitely Be Missed'

12/1/2016 4:07 PM PST BY TMZ STAFF
EXCLUSIVE

1201-joe-mcknight-jurrell-casey-GETTY-02Joe McKnight's USC family is heartbroken over the death of the running back. 

We spoke with Tennessee Titans linebacker Jurrell Casey -- who played with McKnight in 2008 and 2009 -- who tells us, "He will definitely be missed."

"I want to send my regards to his friends and family," Casey says.

"He was always a great guy and fun to be around. He's always had encouraging words. We had some great laughs. He was such a good person to talk to."

Brian Cushing also issued an emotional statement -- "Joe I'll never forget the time we had together at SC. It was unbelievable to see you grow and work your ass off from a freshman until the day you were drafted."

"We competed every day in practice only wanting the best for each other. I'm absolutely crushed to hear the news today about you being gone. I'll never forget what you accomplished and how far you came as a player and a person. RIP Joe McKnight." 

LenDale White didn't play with McKnight -- but McKnight's death is hitting him very hard.

"I'm so fu****g hurt right now. Tears jus keep flowing I love u lil bro. long live smokin Joe!!!!"

He adds, "I jus keep wishing this is a bad dream!!!"

Reggie Bush -- "RIP my brother Joe McKnight this one hurts bad."

Matt Leinart -- "News about Joe Mcknight is devastating. Just at a loss of words!"

Su'a Cravens -- "Rest In Peace to one of my all time favorite Trojans Joe McKnight ... Gone way too soon and I'll pray for your family! Sad man, just sad."

Keyshawn Johnson -- "RIP to former Trojan and NY Jet, Joe McKnight. Man this s--- has got to STOP"

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