ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- The owner and the coach of the Denver Broncos praised the Denver Police Department for its dogged determination to bring charges in the slaying of Darrent Williams 21 months after the rising young star was gunned down in a drive-by shooting that shook the franchise.
"I'm very pleased to bring some closure to this whole sad episode, but we've got a long way to go," team owner Pat Bowlen said Thursday, 24 hours after charges were brought in the case.
Coach Mike Shanahan saluted investigators who struggled for almost two years to bring charges against a suspect in what police called a frustrating and complex case, partly because of a lack of cooperation from witnesses.
"I think the Denver police did an unbelievable job in the investigation. There was a lot involved, very complicated. They dotted their I's and crossed their T's," Shanahan said.
Charged in the case is Willie D. Clark, 25, who faces 39 counts, including murder, attempted murder, assault, crimes of violence and a weapons violation. Clark, long considered a person of interest in the case, has been in police custody since the days after the slaying on unrelated charges.
The shooting happened New Year's Day 2007, after an altercation at the Safari Club, a Denver nightclub. According to the indictment, Williams and Clark were at the club with separate groups of friends and the groups exchanged taunts inside. The argument continued outside the club when it closed, the indictment said, and witnesses testified that a "large" man from Williams' group then grabbed Clark "about the head."
Clark asked friends for "a heater," or gun, according to the indictment. Williams and his companions took off in a stretch Hummer limo and Clark, driving an SUV, caught up and fired, a witness said.
At least 15 shots pierced the limo and police say two weapons were used -- a .45-caliber handgun and a .40-caliber gun.
"Obviously there's more than one shooter," Denver District Attorney Mitch Morrissey said.
Police say the investigation is ongoing and they hope to bring charges against the other shooter.
Several teammates and former teammates of Williams have said the developments brought back painful memories but also a sense of relief. Still, they won't truly be satisfied until there's a conviction, said safety Nick Ferguson, who played with Williams in Denver and now plays for the Houston Texans.
Both Shanahan and Bowlen expressed faith that the police had their culprit.
"With the indictment and all the counts, it sounds like it's a pretty strong case," Shanahan said.
Bowlen was even more forceful in his faith that Clark was the man responsible for Williams' slaying.
"I think the Denver police force did a heck of a job, obviously took their time and they've got the right guy," Bowlen said. "And there's a long time to go between now and the time we get a conviction. But it certainly brings some closure to this organization in that we finally have the guy who pulled the trigger. And we only hope now that we get the proper conviction and the proper punishment."
Bowlen said he would call Williams' mother, Rosalind, who visited her son's grave in Fort Worth, Texas, after investigators told her of the indictment Wednesday.
"I'll give that a day or two because I'm sure knowing Rosalind that this has brought back some memories for her and probably she needs a little time to digest that," Bowlen said. "I really like Rosalind and as I've said before she did a remarkable job under very, very bad circumstances when Darrent was killed. So, I really do look forward to talking to her, but at the appropriate time."
Bowlen said he never lost confidence that charges would be brought in Williams' death.
"We stayed in contact as much as we could with the Denver Police Department, and they were going to do a very thorough job throughout this and make sure they came out with the guy who actually pulled the trigger," Bowlen said.
Shanahan said he learned of the break in the case before it was announced at a news conference Wednesday and he shared the news with his players during a team meeting.
He said there was a sense of relief but also anticipation that justice will soon be served.
"To get an indictment with 39 [counts] is just a heck of a job," Shanahan said. "And from our perspective, obviously nothing will bring Darrent back, but obviously I'm very proud that we found a person or at least got a chance to go to the due process and start from there.
"But I think our organization is very happy, I know the Williams family is very happy."