Was Marshall murderer's intended target?

April, 11, 2011
4/11/11
10:47
AM ET
Miami Dolphins receiver Brandon Marshall declined to participate in Sports Illustrated writer Thomas Lake's story about what happened in the early morning hours of Jan. 1, 2007.

That's when Marshall's teammate, Darrent Williams, was shot and killed in Denver. The bullets probably were intended for Marshall.

Lake didn't need Marshall's input to produce a compelling, in-depth narrative about the events that created a volatile scene both inside and outside the Safari nightclub, where Marshall, Williams and Javon Walker were among a group of Denver athletes celebrating the new year.

In great detail, Lake recreates a tense night that unfolded into a deadly morning. Marshall and his cousin, Blair Clark, are pivotal figures in an argument with the eventual shooter, "Little" Willie Clark.

Lake wrote:
You would not be wrong to call the murder of Darrent Williams a simple case of mistaken identity. The evidence suggests that Little Willie meant to open fire on Marshall's limousine -- that he thought the white Hummer was Marshall's limousine. The trial judge found this a likely explanation, and so did Marshall when he talked to the police. While educated guesses can be made about how this knowledge affected Marshall (an ESPN report showed he had some 12 encounters with police in the 27 months after the shooting, most of them domestic disturbances), it didn't stop him from becoming a superstar. Darrent Williams's friends believed Williams was destined for the Pro Bowl. Brandon Marshall went instead, and last year he signed a five-year deal with the Dolphins worth more than $47 million.

The feature also breaks down the inconsistencies in Marshall's statements to police and his courtroom testimony regarding his cousin and whether they sprayed patrons with champagne, reigniting previous tensions. The author suggests Marshall protected Blair Clark on the witness stand. Marshall admitted he probably escalated the situation with multiple confrontations with the shooter inside and outside the club.

Willie Clark was sentenced to life plus 1,152 years for first-degree murder.

Lake's story is a sobering reminder not only of the dangers that lurk out there for celebrities, but also how bad mistakes can place them in such treacherous situations.

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