Saturday, February 24, 2018
Sports

Chiefs linebacker Jovan Belcher kills girlfriend, himself

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — It began like any other Saturday morning for the Chiefs, their general manager and coach putting the final touches on a game plan for today's matchup against the Panthers. Then they got a call to hurry to the parking lot.

The men rushed through the doors of the team's headquarters and came face to face with linebacker Jovan Belcher, who was holding a gun to his head.

Belcher already had killed his girlfriend, police said, and sped about 5 miles to Arrowhead Stadium, past a security checkpoint at the entrance. Upon finding his bosses, Belcher thanked GM Scott Pioli and coach Romeo Crennel for giving him a chance in the NFL. Then he turned away and pulled the trigger.

Authorities did not release a possible motive other than noting Belcher, 25, and his girlfriend, Kasandra Perkins, 22, had been arguing frequently. The investigation was ongoing.

The two left behind a 3-month-old daughter. She was being cared for by family.

The team said it would play its home game today "after discussions between the league office, (Crennel) and Chiefs team captains."

An argument apparently started about 1 a.m. Saturday, when Perkins returned home from a Trey Songz concert at the Midland arena and drinks afterward with friends. Belcher, her boyfriend, lived with her and was mad that she had stayed out so late, the Kansas City Star reported. The disagreement ended tragically about seven hours later, when Belcher killed Perkins by shooting her multiple times, witnessed by his mother and the couple's daughter.

Belcher went undrafted in 2009 out of Division I-AA Maine, where he received a degree in child development in 31/2 years and participated in an anti-domestic-violence initiative, Male Athletes Against Violence. He signed with the Chiefs and played four seasons. He had started all 11 games in this 1-10 season.

"The entire Chiefs family is deeply saddened … and our collective hearts are heavy with sympathy, thoughts and prayers for the families and friends affected by this unthinkable tragedy," Chiefs chairman Clark Hunt said in a statement.

The NFL released a statement expressing sympathy.

Kansas City police reported receiving a call Saturday morning from a woman who said her daughter had been shot multiple times. The call came from Belcher's mother, who referred to the victim as her daughter, leading to initial confusion.

"She treated Kasandra like a daughter," police spokesman Darin Snapp said.

Belcher's mother, who is from West Babylon, N.Y., on Long Island, recently moved in with the couple.

Less than an hour later, police received a call from the Chiefs' facility. "Pioli, Crennel and another coach or employee were standing outside and appeared to be talking to him," Snapp said. "The suspect began to walk in the opposite direction of the coaches and the officers. And that's when they heard the gunshot."

Crennel and Pioli told police they never felt in danger. "They said the player was actually thanking them for everything they'd done," Snapp said.

At Belcher's childhood home in West Babylon, his family turned the yard into a shrine with a large poster of him and an array of his trophies, jerseys and jackets from the Chiefs, Maine and West Babylon High.

"The guy always had a smile on his face. He would just wrap his arms around you," said Belcher's uncle, Willis Miles, 53, of West Babylon. He is the brother of Belcher's mother.

Relatives of Perkins declined to comment.

Belcher is the latest current or former player to die from a self-inflicted gunshot wound over the past few years. Former Chargers linebacker Junior Seau shot himself in the chest in May. His family donated his brain tissue to determine if head injuries he sustained while playing might be linked to his death.

Belcher did not have an extensive injury history. He showed up on the injury report Nov. 11, 2009, with a head injury. He played four days later against the Raiders.

"He's a very quiet kid, a nice guy, a hard-working kid," said former Bucs tight end Anthony Becht, who played for the Chiefs last season and whose locker was a few stalls away from Belcher's. "I would never — if I'd try to think of someone who would do this, I wouldn't have ever thought it was this kid."

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