Kansas City Chiefs starting linebacker Jovan Belcher shot his girlfriend to death, then drove to the team training facility and killed himself in front of the coach and general manager in a burst of violence on Saturday that stunned the National Football League (NFL) and its fans.
There was no immediate indication from police or others what prompted the 25-year-old Belcher to shoot Kasandra Perkins, 22, with whom he had a three-month-old child, in the house they shared in Kansas City about 3km from the Chiefs’ home field at Arrowhead Stadium.
Police spokesman Darin Snapp said Belcher’s mother witnessed the killing and called police. Perkins had suffered multiple gunshot wounds and was pronounced dead at a hospital.
The mother told investigators that Perkins and her son had quarreled just before the shooting, but that Belcher had never before been physically abusive with Perkins, Snapp added.
Belcher then drove his car to the team’s training facility near the stadium, where he encountered head coach Romeo Crennel and general manager Scott Pioli, then shot himself in the head just as police arrived.
“As officers pulled up and were getting ready to get out of their car, they heard a gunshot,” Snapp said. “The individual, it appears, took his own life.”
Snapp said Belcher had made no threats to Crennel, Pioli or other employees when he arrived.
“He was just talking to them and thanking them for everything they had done for him,” the police spokesman said.
The suicide of Belcher followed a recent string of former NFL players who have taken their own lives, including Junior Seau in May, Ray Easterling in April and Dave Duerson last year.
Those deaths heightened growing concerns about the risk of brain injury from repeated concussions suffered by veteran NFL players in a game that some critics say has grown too aggressive and brutal.
At a news conference later in the day, Kansas City Mayor Sly James decried the violence as “part of the tragedy of urban living in this country.”
“Handguns all over the place, people blowing themselves away, and others. At some point, we have to get a handle on this kind of stuff. We are not doing a good job of it,” he said.