Kansas City Chiefs linebacker Jovan Belcher fatally shot his girlfriend early Saturday, then drove to Arrowhead Stadium and committed suicide in front of his coach and general manager after first thanking them for everything they had done for him, police said.
Authorities did not immediately release a possible motive for the murder-suicide, which stunned the team and came one day before a home game against the Carolina Panthers. The NFL said the game would go on as scheduled.
Belcher was a 25-year-old native of West Babylon, N.Y., on Long Island, played college ball at Maine. He had played all four of his NFL seasons for the Chiefs and played in every game each year, including the 11 so far this season.
Before turning the gun on himself, Belcher thanked Chiefs general manager Scott Pioli and Romeo Crennel for all they had done for him, police spokesman Darin Snapp said.
Authorities received a call Saturday morning from a woman who said her daughter had been shot multiple times at a residence about five miles away from the Arrowhead complex.
“When we arrived, a lady informed us that her daughter had been shot multiple times by her boyfriend, by the daughter’s boyfriend,” Snapp said. “She identified him as a Chiefs player.”
Snapp said a call was then received from the Chiefs’ facility.
“The description matched the suspect description from that other address. We kind of knew what we were dealing with,” he said. The player was “holding a gun to his head” as he stood in front of the front doors of the practice facility.
“And there were Pioli and Crennel and another coach or employee was standing outside and appeared to be talking to him. It appeared they were talking to the suspect,” 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, Snapp said.
“They said the player was actually thanking them for everything they’d done for him,” he said. “They were just talking to him and he was thanking them and everything. That’s when he walked away and shot himself.”
Snapp described the girlfriend as in her early 20s and that she and the player had a child together. He said the woman’s mother told police they had recently been arguing.
Arrowhead Stadium has been lockdown since about 8 a.m.
“We can confirm that there was an incident at Arrowhead earlier this morning,” the Chiefs said in a statement. “We are cooperating with authorities in their investigation.”
Kansas City is scheduled to host the Carolina Panthers on Sunday. The league has informed the Panthers to travel as scheduled because the game would be played as scheduled.
The season has been a massive disappointment for the Chiefs, who were expected to contend for the AFC West title.
They’re just 1-10 and mired in an eight-game losing streak that has been marked by devastating injuries and fan upheaval, with constant calls the past few weeks for Pioli and Crennel to be fired. Things have been so bad this season that Crennel fired himself as defensive coordinator.
The Chiefs have been ravaged by injuries, led the league in turnovers, can’t settle on a quarterback and are dealing with a full-fledged fan rebellion. The Twitter account for a fan group known as “Save Our Chiefs” recently surpassed 80,000 followers, about 17,000 more than the announced crowd at a recent game.