The Kansas City Chiefs will play the Carolina Panthers as scheduled today at Arrowhead Stadium, where linebacker Jovan Belcher killed himself after police say he fatally shot his girlfriend.
Chiefs General Manager Scott Pioli and coach Romeo Crennel were about 10 yards from Belcher when he shot himself in the head yesterday morning.
Belcher, 25, was “standing in the parking lot with a gun to his head” and talking to Pioli and Crennel when officers arrived at the team’s practice facility, Kansas City Police Department spokesman Darin Snapp said in a telephone interview.
“When officers started getting out of the car, he walked away about 20 or 30 feet and that’s when he shot himself,” Snapp said. “Pioli and the coach said they never felt in danger, he was pretty much thanking them for everything they’d done for him while he’d been a Chief.”
The National Football League team said today’s game would be played as scheduled, with kickoff at 1 p.m. New York time. Kansas City has the NFL’s worst record at 1-10 and has lost eight straight games. The Panthers are 3-8.
Joe Linta, the agent for both Belcher and Crennel, said he “never in a million years” thought the player was capable of such violence, according to SI.com.
“Something went crazy wrong, and we’ll probably never know what it is,” Linta said, according to the media outlet’s website.
The Kansas City Star quoted an unidentified person as saying Belcher had argued with Kasandra Perkins after she attended a concert by the rhythm-and-blues artist Trey Songz. The newspaper said the person was a friend of Perkins, 22.
Perkins and Belcher had a 3-month-old daughter. Belcher’s mother, who lives at the home where the shooting occurred, called police.
“I am devastated by this morning’s events,” Chiefs linebacker Tamba Hali said on his Twitter feed yesterday. “I want to send my thoughts and prayers out to everyone affected by this tragedy.”
The NFL historically has been reluctant to postpone games.
It stayed with the schedule in November 2007 after Washington Redskins safety Sean Taylor was fatally shot by an intruder in his Miami home. The NFL also went ahead with games in November 1963 just 48 hours after the assassination of President Kennedy, a move that then-Commissioner Pete Rozelle later said was the biggest mistake of his career.
The league issued a statement yesterday saying “our thoughts and prayers are with the Chiefs and the families and friends of those who lost their lives in this terrible tragedy.”
About 20 minutes before he went to the team’s practice facility, Snapp said, Belcher shot Perkins.
The 6-foot-2, 228-pound Belcher was in his fourth season with the Chiefs, who signed him as a rookie free agent from the University of Maine in 2009.
The West Babylon, New York, native started 10 of the 11 games he played this season, making 38 tackles. He appeared in all 16 games each of his previous three seasons and totaled 257 tackles and one sack in his career.
Belcher led West Babylon High School on Long Island to an undefeated regular season in 2004 and also was a three-time All-American selection as a high school wrestler.