'Hurting' Chiefs hold pre-game moment of silence
KANSAS CITY, Missouri (AFP) –
The Kansas City Chiefs took the field with heavy hearts Sunday at the stadium where a day earlier linebacker Jovan Belcher shot himself after police said he shot and killed his girlfriend.
Chiefs chief executive Clark Hunt told The Kansas City Star that the hours leading up to the NFL contest against the Carolina Panthers had been “incredibly difficult.”
“It’s been an incredibly difficult 24 hours for our family and the entire organization,” Hunt said. “We have so many guys on the team and on the coaching staff who are really hurting.”
Hunt said he left the decision on whether to play up to players and head coach Romeo Crennel, who was among the Chiefs staff members watching when Belcher, 25, arrived at the team training facility on Saturday shortly after shooting his 22-year-old girlfriend Kasandra Perkins at a nearby house.
As police arrived at Arrowhead Stadium in response to an emergency call, Belcher fatally shot himself, Kansas City police spokesman Darin Snapp said.
Snapp said Crennel, general manager Scott Pioli and another Chiefs staff member had gone outside to talk to Belcher.
“Belcher thanked them for being a Chief, and that’s when he walked away,” Snapp said. When he was 30 or 40 feet (nine to 12 meters) away, Belcher killed himself with one gunshot to his head.
“I spent the evening last night at the team hotel with them,” Hunt told ESPN before the game.
“I wanted to be there with the team, with the coaches, to let them know I love them and support them and know what they’re going through, and particularly the guys who were present in the parking lot when Jovan took his life. I know this has to be incredibly difficult.”
The couple left an infant daughter, Zoe. Police said she was in the care of Belcher’s mother, who was visiting from out of town, saw the first shooting and called authorities.
The Chiefs opted not to memorialize Belcher specifically on Sunday, but they held a moment of silence before the game in recognition of victims of domestic violence.
Belcher, who played high school football on Long Island, New York, had been with the Chiefs for four years. He joined them as an undrafted free agent out of university and worked his way into a starting position.
Police said Belcher and Perkins argued before he shot her, but the violence stunned those who knew the player.
“Something went crazy wrong, and we’ll probably never know what it is,” Belcher’s agent Joe Linta was quoted as saying on SI.com.
Belcher’s coach at the University of Maine, Jack Cosgrove, was among the many voicing horrified surprise at the murder-suicide.
“His move to the NFL was in keeping with his dreams,” Cosgrove said. “This is an indescribably horrible tragedy. At this difficult time, our thoughts and prayers are with Jovan, Kasandra and their families.”