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Student death is "total shock'

The coroner's report will say John Keough Jr. died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head.

But that isn't enough to explain to his parents, friends and coaches why a former Boca Ciega High School football star and honor student with a successful college career and promising future will be buried Wednesday morning.

"It's a complete and total shock to everyone who ever knew him," his mother, Mary Keough, said Sunday.

He was the model of young success: a four-year high school honor student who graduated in the top 20 in his class, a decorated Scout, a church member and an acclaimed football player. Keough was attending Eastern Kentucky University on a full football scholarship, and was excelling both in sports and in his chosen major of criminal psychology.

Mrs. Keough said she spoke to him at 8 p.m. Friday and he seemed his usual happy self. He talked of his plans for the evening, going out with his football buddies. He talked of his plans to go to Daytona Beach on spring break next week with several friends. And he talked about the surgery he had scheduled for a football injury to his hand.

"He was in really good spirits," Mrs. Keough said.

Four hours later, John Keough Jr., 21, was declared dead at Pattie A. Clay Hospital in Richmond, Ky.

His parents and friends are left to agonize over whether Keough meant to pull the trigger that sent the bullet through his head or whether something went terribly wrong.

That night, Mrs. Keough said, her son ran into a former girlfriend while out with his friends. Mrs. Keough said her son had broken up with the girlfriend nearly a year ago, but she was having problems, and it apparently was difficult or uncomfortable when her son saw the former girlfriend around town.

After talking to school officials and her son's friends, Mrs. Keough provided this account of what happened next.

John Keough borrowed the key to the dormitory room of a friend who had a gun. Both Keough's former girlfriend and his friend's fiance were on the volleyball team.

In the friend's room, Keough took a volleyball team picture off the wall. He was sitting there with the gun beside him when four of his football friends opened the door and began to walk in.

At that moment, as the door opened, Keough picked up the gun. It went off.

Now, said Mrs. Keough, the friends are worried they somehow provoked the incident. And maybe no one will ever know what was going on in Keough's mind at the time.

"These poor kids are blaming themselves," Mrs. Keough said. "They're saying "maybe if we hadn't opened the door. Maybe if we had left him alone . . .' "

Coroner Embry Curry said Sunday there was no indication the death was an accident. He has ruled the death a suicide.

Keough's former coach at Boca Ciega High, Jon Bolen, says he can't believe Keough meant to take his life. He was too happy, he had too much going for him, Bolen said.

"I just can't believe he wanted it to go that far," Bolen said. "Every time I saw him, he always had that big damn smile. He was just a wonderful kid."

Bolen said Keough had recently offered to help train younger students in the weight room the next time he came home for a visit. He talked about how much he liked living in Kentucky and how much he liked the football team there, Bolen said.

Roy Harrell, a spokesman for Eastern Kentucky, said possession of any weapon on campus is a violation of university policy. The incident is under investigation by university officials.

Wednesday's funeral arrangements are being handled by the Osgood-Cloud Funeral Home in Pinellas Park. The family has established a memorial find in John Keough's name at the Tyrone branch of NationsBank.

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