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Sunday, December 2, 2012

Jovan Belcher Murder-Suicide Stuns Kansas City Chiefs - Videos

Jovan Belcher's conflicting potrait 
reveals an earnest, hard-working young man

Jovan Belcher will be remembered for one of the most egregious acts ever committed by an NFL player: the fatal shooting of a young mother in front of her own mother, followed by his own suicide in front of a head coach and GM who tried to stop him from further violence. By bringing a loaded weapon to his workplace, Belcher risked several more lives than he took.

Jovan Belcher Commits Suicide At Chiefs' Facility
After Fatally Shooting Girlfriend: REPORTS


Jovan Belcher joined the Chiefs in 2009 as an undrafted player from the University of Maine. (AP)

And yet the portrait of him emerging in the aftermath of his inexplicable behavior is one of a 25-year-old man who had a history of making mature choices. That included joining a campus group called Male Athletes Against Violence. As part of the organization, according to USA Today, Belcher would have had to sign a pledge promising to "look honestly at my actions in regards to violence and make changes, if necessary." Even beyond that, Belcher majored in child development and family relations at the University of Maine, where he starred on the football field before jumping to the NFL.

"He's very much in control of himself and comes across very soft-spoken, an absolute gentleman," Maine coach Jack Cosgrove told the Bangor Daily News in 2008. "He's able to blend this quiet confidence, this demeanor, with his passion for learning, becoming a better person, a better student, a better football player."

The NFL is a league filled with celebrities, players who come to prominence as college athletes in the public eye and then become household names across the country. Belcher's story, however, is one of relative anonymity. He got one scholarship offer, to Maine, and he made the most of it, becoming a star and a leader. He went undrafted in 2009, yet still latched on with the Chiefs and became a starter. "I think he's a guy that's impressed us all from early on," then-head coach Todd Haley told the Kansas City Star, "and I think we've got a potential player there. That's a guy that needs to be on the field." He stayed on the field, starting in 10 of 11 games this season. He recently signed a contract worth nearly $2 million.
[Related: Police: Chiefs linebacker Jovan Belcher kills girlfriend, takes own life]

Belcher's story, up until this weekend, was the stuff of inspiration for boys who choose a big dream and cling to it no matter what. "He was the standard," former Maine defensive coordinator Robb Smith told Sports Illustrated. "He was never a guy in trouble on campus." Belcher's focus seemed unwavering, not only on the field where he became a starting NFL linebacker despite being decidedly undersized at 228 pounds, but also off of it, as he honed his athletic skills in high school wrestling. Anyone who chooses that sport knows it is among the most mentally challenging of all athletic pursuits. Belcher's love of wrestling is another indication of the dedication it took to reach the top of the sporting world. He found time to star on the mat and play four different positions at West Babylon High on Long Island.

"My mother is a hardworking woman," he told the Bangor Daily News. "To see her overcome some things and succeed, it makes me look at things and say, 'This isn't even hard.' "

Police say Belcher killed himself at the Chiefs training facility after killing his girlfriend. (Reuters)

Belcher's high school position coach told the paper how much his former player wanted to impress his mom, both on and off the field. He certainly did that at Maine, winning first-team All-American honors in the Football Championship Subdivision. He also graduated in less than four years. Last year, Belcher became a regional winner of the National Consortium for Academics and Sports' Scholar-Baller Program Academic Momentum Award. He also spent time doing charitable work while with the Chiefs. Former Maine teammate Mike Brusko told the Morning Call his old friend "was like a brother to me."
 Police say Belcher killed himself at the Chiefs training facility after killing his girlfriend. (Reuters)

"He accomplished so many things individually, but he never once talked about himself," Brusko said. "He was always more happy and excited for his friends. It feels strange to talk [about] him in the past tense. It's very difficult."

[Related: Former Belcher teammate writes about Chiefs tragedy]

And yet just as many good things can be said about Belcher's girlfriend, Kasandra Perkins, who is now dead at 22. She moved to Kansas City from Texas, and planned to become a schoolteacher before giving birth to a baby girl in September. The argument which led to her death began, according to the Kansas City Star, when Perkins returned late from a concert with friends.

"She was a very good person," a friend told the Star. "I don't know why he'd want to hurt her like that."

They were two passionate people with promising futures. But because of what Belcher has done, their stories are now over. Only troubling questions, fond memories and poignant photos of a beautiful young family are left behind.

 Jovan Belcher Murder-Suicide Stuns Kansas City Chiefs

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- It began like any other Saturday for the Kansas City Chiefs during the NFL season, their general manager and coach at work early to put final touches on this weekend's gameplan. Then they got a call to hurry to the parking lot.

 KANSAS CITY, MO - 2009: Jovan Belcher of the Kansas 
City Chiefs poses for his 2009 NFL headshot at photo day in Kansas City, Missouri. 
(Photo by NFL Photos)

The two men rushed through the glass doors of Chiefs headquarters and came face-to-face with linebacker Jovan Belcher, holding a handgun to his head.

Belcher had already killed his girlfriend and sped the short distance to Arrowhead Stadium, right past a security checkpoint guarding the entrance. Upon finding his bosses, Belcher thanked general manager Scott Pioli and head coach Romeo Crennel for giving him a chance in the NFL. Then he turned away and pulled the trigger.

The murder-suicide shocked a franchise that has been dealing with controversies now made trivial by comparison: eight consecutive losses, injuries too numerous to count, discontent among fans and the prospect that Pioli and Crennel could be fired at season's end.

Authorities did not release a possible motive while piecing together the case, other than to note that Belcher and his girlfriend, 22-year-old Kasandra M. Perkins, had been arguing frequently.

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

The Chiefs issued a statement that said their game Sunday afternoon against the Carolina Panthers would go on as scheduled, even as the franchise tried to come to grips with the awfulness of Belcher's death.

"The entire Chiefs family is deeply saddened by today's events, 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 brief a statement.

A spokesman for the team told The Associated Press that Crennel plans to coach on Sunday.

"I can tell you that you have absolutely no idea what it's like to see someone kill themselves," said Kansas City Mayor Sly James, who spoke to Pioli shortly after the shootings.

"You can take your worst nightmare and put someone you know and love in that situation, and give them a gun and stand three feet away and watch them kill themselves. That's what it's like," James said. "It's unfathomable."

Chiefs quarterback Brady Quinn told The Kansas City Star that when the team met later Saturday morning, Crennel broke the news to them.

"It was obviously tough for coach to have to tell us that," Quinn said. "He really wasn't able to finish talking to us. We got together and prayed and then we moved on."

But Quinn said the team was so stunned, it was hard to digest what had happened.

"It's hard mostly because I keep thinking about what I could have done to stop this," he said. "I think everyone is wondering whether we would have done something to prevent this from happening."

The 25-year-old Belcher was from West Babylon, N.Y., and played college football at Maine. He signed with the Chiefs as an undrafted free agent, made the team and hung around the past four years, eventually moving into the starting lineup. He played in all 11 games this season.

The NFL released a statement expressing sympathy and pledging "to provide assistance in any way that we can." The players' association has also been in touch with members of the Chiefs.

"We sincerely appreciate the expressions of sympathy and support we have received from so many in the Kansas City and NFL communities, and ask for continued prayers for the loved ones of those impacted," Hunt said. "We will continue to fully cooperate with the authorities and work to ensure that the appropriate counseling resources are available to all members of the organization."

The drama unfolded early Saturday when authorities received a call from a woman who said her daughter had been shot multiple times at a residence about five miles from the Arrowhead complex. The call came from Belcher's mother, who referred to the victim as her daughter.

"She treated Kasandra like a daughter," Kansas City police spokesman Darin Snapp said, adding that the woman had recently moved in with the couple, "probably to help out with the baby."

Police then got a phone call from the Chiefs' training facility, and Belcher's description matched the suspect description from the initial address. Snapp said officers pulled into the practice facility parking lot in a matter of minutes, in time to witness the suicide.

"Pioli and Crennel and another coach or employee was 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. It appears he took his own life."

The coaches told police they never felt in any danger.

"They said the player was actually thanking them for everything they'd done for him," Snapp said. "He was thanking them and everything. That's when he walked away and shot himself."

Members of the Chiefs mostly laid low Saturday, but a few reacted on Twitter.

"I am devastated by this mornings events," Pro Bowl linebacker Tamba Hali wrote. "I want to send my thoughts and prayers out to everyone effected by this tragedy."

A large group of Belcher's friends and relatives gathered Saturday at his boyhood home on Long Island.

His family turned the front yard into a shrine, with a large poster of Belcher, an array of his trophies, and jerseys and jackets from Kansas City, Maine and West Babylon High.

"He was a good, good person ... a family man. A loving guy," said family friend Ruben Marshall, who said he coached Belcher in youth football. "You couldn't be around a better person."

At least 20 people gathered for a large group hug in the driveway.

"He was a tremendous player and all those things, and his accolades speak for themselves, but he lit up when he spoke about his mom, or when he hugged his family after games," said Dwayne Wilmot, who was Belcher's position coach at Maine and is now an assistant coach at Yale.

"It's difficult to talk about Jovan in the past tense," he told the AP. "There's going to be unanswered questions, the why's of this tragedy. It'll never be truly known to us."

Wilmot said he'd stayed in touch with Belcher the past few years through social media.

"He was someone who took genuine pleasure in bringing happiness to others," Wilmot said. "I was so excited when he became a father, because I knew he'd be a great father."

His girlfriend's Facebook page shows the couple smiling and holding the baby.

Belcher is the latest among several players and NFL retirees to die from self-inflicted gunshot wounds during the past few years. The death of star linebacker Junior Seau, who shot himself in the chest in at his California home last May, sent shockwaves around the league.

Seau's family, like those of other suicide victims, donated his brain tissue to medical authorities to determine if head injuries he sustained playing football might be linked to his death. That report has not been released, although an autopsy showed no underlying hemorrhaging or bruises on Seau's brain.

Belcher did not have an extensive injury history, though he was listed as having a head injury on a report from Nov. 11, 2009. Belcher played four days later against the Oakland Raiders.

Earlier this year, the NFL provided a grant to help establish an independently operated phone service that connects players, coaches, team officials and other staff with counselors trained to work through personal and emotional crises. The NFL Life Line is available 24 hours a day.

The season has been a massive disappointment for the Chiefs, who were expected to contend for the AFC West title. They're 1-10 and mired in an eight-game skid marked by injuries, poor play and fan upheaval. During the past few weeks there have been constant calls for Pioli and Crennel to be fired.

It's unknown how the Chiefs plan to pay tribute to Belcher during Sunday's game.

"His move to the NFL was in keeping with his dreams," said Jack Cosgrove, who coached Belcher at Maine. "This is an indescribably horrible tragedy."

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