The burglary that led to the shooting death of Washington Redskins safety Sean Taylor almost didn't happen when one suspect heard a noise and wanted to flee, an attorney close to the case said yesterday.
But the lawyer, Richard Sharpstein, said the alleged triggerman told police he was the cause of the noise and talked the others into continuing, leading to a confrontation early Nov. 26 that ended with a machete-wielding Taylor fatally shot.
"It was a botched burglary all along. It's senseless, mindless and tragic," said Sharpstein, who has acted as a Taylor family spokesman and once represented Taylor in an unrelated case.
Sharpstein, a veteran Miami defense attorney, said his information came from unreleased statements to police given by the four suspects in the case. They are being held without bail and face arraignment on murder and other charges on Dec. 21.
Those statements, Sharpstein said, indicate Jason Mitchell, 19, and Eric Rivera Jr., 17, went to the house while the other two - Venjah K. Hunte, 20, and Charles Wardlow, 18 - stayed outside, where there was a getaway car. The four are from the Fort Myers area on the state's southwest coast, about 100 miles from Miami.
At some point, Mitchell got scared by noises and ran out of Taylor's house but was persuaded to return by Rivera, who said it was he who had caused the noise. Mitchell and Rivera apparently had been involved in an earlier burglary at Taylor's home, Sharpstein said.
Mitchell attorney Landon Miller said he could not confirm the account. Hunte's attorney, Michael F. Hornung, said Hunte did not enter Taylor's home the night of the shooting.
Rivera attorney Sawyer Smith declined to comment. Wardlow's attorney, David A. Brener, said his understanding from police was that his client tried to convince the group to leave when the noise was heard.
* Bart Scott and three other Baltimore players were fined by the NFL for arguing with game officials and complaining about calls in Monday's loss to New England.
Scott, who argued with officials and tossed a penalty flag into the stands, was fined $25,000. Cornerbacks Chris McAlister and Samari Rolle and wide receiver Derrick Mason each were fined $15,000 for critical remarks made after the game.
* Kevin Everett is walking on his own at a Houston rehab center, the latest significant progress by the Buffalo Bills tight end in his remarkable recovery from a serious spinal-cord injury.
* Denver coach Mike Shanahan was fined $25,000 by the NFL for his comments about running back Travis Henry's appeal of a 1-year drug suspension.
The NFL informed Henry in September that he failed a test for marijuana. He sued the NFL to avoid a suspension and won his appeal Tuesday. Shanahan supported Henry's appeal, saying he was convinced of his innocence after the player passed a polygraph test and a hair sample came back negative for marijuana.
* Tennessee safety Chris Hope is out for the season after tests confirmed a spinal-cord injury that is not expected to be career-ending.
* New Orleans running back Reggie Bush has a partially torn left knee ligament that could sideline him for Monday night's game at Atlanta and possibly for the rest of the season.
* Houston placed running back Ahman Green (knee) on injured reserve, ending his season. *