Police tape is up at University Green Apartments in Ypsilanti where the body of Eastern Michigan University football player Demarius Reed was found Friday morning. (Mark Bialek / Special to The Detroit News)
Ypsilanti — A promising Eastern Michigan University football player survived growing up on Chicago’s tough south side, only to have his life cut short Friday morning in an off-campus shooting.
Police said Friday robbery is suspected as a possible motive in the shooting death of Demarius Reed, 20.
Ypsilanti Police were called to the University Green Apartments in the 700 block of West Clark Road near LeForge at 7:15 a.m., where they found Reed’s body. It had multiple gunshot wounds, police said in a statement.
Personal items were missing from the apartment, officials said.
The Washtenaw County Medical Examiner’s Office has completed an autopsy, but the results were not available Friday afternoon, police said. There are no suspects in custody.
Reed’s death is being investigated as a homicide. The university did not provide further details, other than Ypsilanti authorities are working with campus police in the investigation.
“We are all deeply saddened by the tragic news this morning involving Eastern Michigan University student Demarius Reed. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family and friends, and his teammates on the football team,” EMU president Dr. Susan Martin said in a press release.
Reed, a junior, was a wide receiver for the Eagles, who are scheduled to play Ohio University on Saturday. The home game at Rynearson Stadium will be played, officials said.
Dedication to football
Reed, the son of Carl and Tanesha, was a graduate of Simeon High School in Chicago. He was majoring in communications.
He was a key receiver and leader on EMU’s football team. He had 15 receptions for 185 yards and scored a touchdown this season. He was never better than in the opening drive of the Eagles’ most recent home game against Ball State Sept. 21, hauling in two passes that led to a touchdown, the second for a 17-yard reception on fourth down.
Like many young football players, Reed’s dreams were to one day play in the NFL, said his grandfather, Joe L. Reed.
“I told him ‘Man, you have to stay in that gym,’ ” Reed said. “He would say, ‘I’m good enough.’ He loved the game.”
The elder Reed said he found irony in the tragedy of his grandson’s slaying: Demarius was able to survive the dangerous streets and gangs of Chicago only to become a victim in the perceived safety of a university community.
“He was an outgoing, beautiful kid. He wasn’t associated with no gang or anything,” he said. “I would say, ‘Hey, man. Don’t go outside.’ I wouldn’t let him associate with anybody over there.”
Over there, he said, is the area near Simeon on Chicago’s South Side. Simeon Career Academy is in the enclave of Chatham, on the city’s south side. While the neighborhood itself is middle class, it’s surrounded by impoverished areas.
Reed said he even had reservations about his grandson moving into an off-campus apartment. “He was on scholarship,” he said. “He could have stayed on campus.”
“It's such a tragedy, a huge loss for all of us,” EMU basketball coach Rob Murphy said. “Our prayers go out to the Reed family. One of my players, Darell Combs, was with him last night, playing video games. They grew up together in Chicago and were very tight.
“All the programs are supporting each other right now. The kids all know each other and it's such a tough time.”
An 'unbelievable loss'
Reed gave words of motivation to Roland Rance of Saginaw to help him reach his dream of playing Division 1 football for the Eagles next season.
Rance transferred from Lincoln University in Missouri and played football with high school teammates of Reed at Chicago Simeon.
“A few days ago (last Friday) I spoke to him at the fashion show (at EMU) and he was giving me a couple words of motivation,” Rance said. “We were just speaking about life and everything, getting bigger in the weight room and stuff.
“He was a good kid. I can't believe it. I heard someone tried to rob him, like 7 in the morning, that’s what I know so far. It’s sad. I was just talking to a few people earlier about it.”
Darrell Butler, who runs hurdles on the EMU track team, was saddened by the news after reading his mail.
“I knew of him because all my friends know him,” Butler said. “I didn't know him personally, but I've seen him around because of athletics and stuff, I run track so we’re in the same boat. It’s real tragic, like it was crazy. I didn’t really think that would happen around here.”
Athletic director Heather Lyke said in a statement the EMU family has suffered an “unbelievable loss.”
“Demarius was an influential leader who thrived in the classroom and on the field,” she said. “Everyone gravitated to him and often described him as the ‘life of the locker room.’ Our hearts go out to Demarius’ family. We are doing all we can to help and support them along with the rest of our student-athletes.”
Dealing with grief
Grief counselors are available and have been meeting with football team members, students, faculty and staff.
Mike Hart, EMU’s running backs coach and former Michigan star, tweeted Friday about Reed’s death.
“You came from nothing and turned yourself into something, you were a boy that became a man, you are the reason why I coach. #RIPDREED”
University Green Apartments, the site of the shooting, issued a statement Friday afternoon.
“Our entire family over at Paragon Properties and University Green Apartments are deeply saddened to hear about this tragic incident earlier this morning,” the statement read. “We are not able to comment on any pending investigation and are cooperating fully with the police in their efforts. Our thoughts and prayers are with the victim’s family and friends during this very difficult time.”
Detroit News Staff Writers Candice Williams and George Hunter and The Associated Press contributed.