Autopsy says former CU star and Heisman winner shot himself in the head.
1994 Heisman winner was drinking, using pot before suicide
University of Colorado Heisman Trophy winner Rashaan Salaam took his own life by shooting himself in the head after heavy drinking and marijuana use, according to the autopsy released Thursday.
The cause of Salaam’s death was a gunshot wound to the head, the Boulder County coroner’s office concluded. He was 42 years old.
Salaam’s body was found by a passer-by outside his girlfriend’s car at Eben G. Fine Park in Boulder on the night of Dec. 5. He was wearing a black short-sleeved shirt, gray sweatpants and black sneakers, the report says.
The autopsy indicated Salaam had been drinking heavily and using marijuana before dying by suicide. A note was also found at the scene. The coroner’s office confirmed his identity with fingerprints.
Salaam had blood-alcohol content of 0.25 percent, more than three times the legal driving limit of 0.08 percent. He had 55 nanograms per milliliter of THC in his system as well, the autopsy says.
“The decedent reportedly has a history of depression; and recent life stressors,” the autopsy says.
Salaam was suffering several health issues including moderate coronary atherosclerosis, gastroesophageal reflux disease and thoracic scoliosis, the report says. Dr. Dawn Homes, who performed the autopsy, also noted Salaam had an old bilateral rib fracture calluses.
Salaam’s tattoos were all itemized and included: “believer” on the back of his left wrist, “no limit” on the back of his right wrist and “Salaam” on his upper right arm. On his lower neck was the phrase, “SOUL OF RED AND BLACK FOLKS.”
He was carrying his U.S. passport with him and $63 in cash. He weighed 245 pounds.
The coroner’s office asked Salaam’s family whether they wanted the option of additional neuropathological analysis to determine whether he suffered from a common condition for athletes suffering from repeated head injuries called chronic traumatic encephalopathy, or CTE, before the autopsy, but they declined.
Salaam’s brother, Jabali Alaji, told USA Today after Salaam’s death that he believed the 1994 Heisman Trophy winner displayed “all the symptoms” of CTE, including depression and memory loss.
Deputy Boulder County Coroner Dustin Bueno previously told Boulder’s Daily Camera that CTE examinations are not done in routine autopsies. He said brain matter would need to be sent to an outside lab for testing, but added that they would do so only with the family’s permission. A “dry” autopsy was performed in observance of his family’s religious preference, according to the autopsy.
Salaam won the award given to college football’s best player as a junior in 1994 and was selected in the first round of the 1995 NFL draft by the Chicago Bears. As a junior, he rushed for 2,055 yards and 24 touchdowns as the Buffaloes finished 11-1.