Ladarius Clardy, 18, of Pensacola, was found by medics after being flagged down by a bicyclist who saw his car crash down an embankment along W. Fairfield Drive near Hollywood Avenue just after midnight Thursday, Escambia County Sheriff Chip W. Simmons said.
"This was an intentional act. Someone fired over 50 rounds into the car, most of them into the car door, the driver's door. And the injuries that Ladarius Clardy suffered ultimately took his life," said the sheriff at a 5 p.m. press conference on Thursday.
"Ladarius had just been in town for a couple of hours. He plays ball at Kennesaw State and he had just come to town a couple of hours before this and he was with a friend of his," the sheriff said.
A 19-year-old passenger was also in the car at the time. His name has not been released.
"I do not yet know his condition. Last I heard, he was in surgery," the sheriff said.
The sheriff said Clardy had a "bright athletic future." He was well-known in Escambia County having led his team at Pine Forest High School to two winning seasons making it to the second round of the state playoffs both years. He held the school’s all-time passing record, earned back-to-back Offensive Player of the Year awards, and was a two-time All-Area recipient.
"This is a young man that had friends. This is a young man that already had an impact in our community and he was well on his way to having an impact in other communities as well," the sheriff said.
"Today is a sad day for Pensacola. Many will call Ladarius Clardy, I knew him as ‘L.D.’ because he played in a program that I spent my life coaching. A wonderful honor student, a great athlete, but more importantly a young man, that has lost his life to violence," said Escambia County Commissioner Lumon May.
KSU said the rising sophomore played two games in the spring 2021 season, recording one carry for seven years in the team’s 35-0 win over Robert Morris.
(Kennesaw State University)
Reaction from the KSU community was quick. The KSU Athletics released the following statement:
"Kennesaw State has been made aware of this tragic incident. We send our deepest condolences and prayers to the loved ones of Ladarius Clardy.
"We are committed to providing support and resources for our student-athletes and staff during this difficult time."
KSU Head Coach Brian Bohannon wrote:
"We are devastated and heartbroken over the death of Ladarius Clardy. Ladarius was an excellent teammate and left a mark on this program with his positive attitude. He will be deeply missed. Our thoughts and prayers are with Ladarius' family at this difficult time."
KSU is offering to counsel students and student-athletes who may need it.
"This is not just a statistic. This is a son, this is a friend, this is a teammate and enough is enough," the sheriff said.
Ladarius Clardy (Kennesaw State University)
Meanwhile, investigators are asking businesses and residents in the area to review surveillance video to see if they can spot his black 2016 Honda 4-door which might give them clues or a timeline of events.
"We want to know what he was doing that night, who he was with. We are looking for a motive," the sheriff said vowing his office will solve this case and find the "coward" responsible.
The sheriff said they want to speak to the bicyclist again to see if they might have seen anything more.
A $5,000 reward is being offered for information that leads to the arrest and indictment in the case, the sheriff said. Anyone with information can call Crime Stoppers at 850-433-STOP.
This story is being reported out of Atlanta
Download the FOX 5 Atlanta app for breaking news and weather alerts.