McKinley committed suicide with a gun he had purchased months before from teammate Jabar Gaffney, who told investigators McKinley wanted the weapon for his own protection, according to an investigative report by the Arapahoe County Sheriff's Department that was obtained by The Associated Press. Arapahoe County Sheriff Grayson Robinson said there was nothing inappropriate about the sale of the gun.
Detectives also determined that McKinley had spoken about suicide with at least three of his friends, including former Broncos backup quarterback Tom Brandstater. Brandstater told investigators he had lent McKinley $65,000 and that McKinley owed $40,000 in casino markers in Las Vegas.
McKinley, 23, suffered a season-ending left knee injury during the first week of Broncos training camp. He underwent an operation several weeks before he shot himself in the left temple at his rental home near the Broncos' practice facility. McKinley had injured the same knee in the Broncos' next-to-last game in 2009.
The 131-page report, which states the investigation has closed, quoted witnesses as saying McKinley was depressed over his second knee surgery in eight months and was worried about how he would care for his toddler son when his football career was over.
Days before his death, McKinley had been ordered to pay $3,000 a month in child support by a South Carolina court. He had told friends he was being threatened with a paternity suit by another woman who said she was pregnant with his baby, according to the sheriff's report.
McKinley had missed a South Carolina court hearing in the child support case on Sept. 14.
The Broncos declined to comment on the sheriff's report out of respect for McKinley's family.
McKinley's parents and Brandstater told investigators they had been trying to help him fix his financial problems.
According to investigators, the Broncos were apparently aware of McKinley's financial troubles.
The team's player development director, Harold Chatman, had been asked by Brandstater's representative to hold onto a copy of a contract Brandstater had with McKinley, stating McKinley would repay the $65,000 loan.
The Broncos called it an internal matter. A message was left by the AP on Wednesday with Brandstater, who is now on the Miami Dolphins' practice squad.
The knee injury was costly financially for McKinley, who signed a four-year, $1.95 million contract with the Broncos in 2009 after they drafted him in the fifth round out of South Carolina.
The deal included a $200,200 signing bonus, and he made the rookie minimum salary of $310,000 last year. However, he had a split contract, meaning that because he was to spend all of 2010 on injured reserve, he would receive $240,000, instead of $395,000.
There were no guarantees that he'd recover from his second knee operation to earn the $480,000 due him in 2011 or $565,000 in 2012.