With his coach looking on, a Kansas City Chiefs linebacker shot and killed himself outside the team's practice facility Saturday morning, less than an hour after he killed his girlfriend, according to the police.
The player was identified as Jovan Belcher, 25, said Darin Snapp, a spokesman for the Kansas City Police Department, and his girlfriend was identified as Kasandra Perkins, 22.
The harrowing morning began at a house on Crysler Avenue in Kansas City, Mo., that Belcher shared with Perkins. About 7 a.m., with his mother and infant daughter in another room, Belcher shot Perkins multiple times, Snapp said.
When the police arrived after the shooting, Belcher's mother, Cheryl E. Shepherd, told them that her son had shot Perkins, Snapp said. Shepherd told the police that Perkins was like her own daughter, and that it was not immediately clear what had triggered the violence.
Perkins was taken to a hospital, where she died a short time later, the police said.
After shooting Perkins, the police said, Belcher made the 15-minute drive to the team's practice facility at Arrowhead Stadium.
The Kansas City police received a call a little after 8 a.m. from a member of the Chiefs' security staff who said he saw Belcher pull up to the parking lot with a gun and that Belcher was threatening suicide, Snapp said. When the officers arrived, they saw coach Romeo Crennel, general manager Scott Pioli and another Chiefs employee, who was not identified, standing in the parking lot talking to Belcher.
Snapp said that they had been talking for about four or five minutes -- the time it took for the police to arrive. As the officers pulled up, Belcher walked away from Crennel and Pioli and shot himself, Snapp said.
In their preliminary interview with the police, Pioli and Crennel said that they were never threatened by Belcher and never in fear. Belcher thanked them for everything they had done for him since he had been with the Chiefs, Snapp said.
Clark Hunt, the team owner, issued a statement that said: "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. 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."
According to his biography with the Chiefs, Belcher played linebacker, offensive tackle, nose guard and fullback at West Babylon High School on Long Island. In his senior year, the team was undefeated in the regular season for the first time. He was also a three-time prep all-American as a wrestler.
During his four-year career at the University of Maine, Belcher started every game; as a junior he was an Associated Press second-team all-American. But he was not drafted by an NFL team.
In 2009, he signed as a free agent with the Chiefs and proved himself on the practice squad and on special teams, not an unusual path for an undrafted player from a nonmajor program.
From there, Belcher's rise was rapid. He started 15 of 16 games at linebacker in 2010, and every game last season. This year, he started 10 of the 11 games the Chiefs have played, with 38 tackles.
The Chiefs, who are 1-10 this season, announced Saturday afternoon that they would play Sunday's game against the Carolina Panthers as scheduled at Arrowhead.
Fans have persistently called for the firing of the team's top management. But after news of the shooting, a demonstration against the team's leadership that had been planned for Sunday's game was called off. On Facebook, a group calling itself Save Our Chiefs released a statement that said: "We feel that tomorrow's game is neither the proper place nor the proper time to continue these activities, but rather tomorrow's game should be a time for all fans to come together and help this team recover from a great tragedy."
Former teammates and friends said Belcher was mild-mannered and quiet and that the news came as a shock.
Anthony Becht, who was a tight end for the Chiefs last season and whose locker was just a few stalls away from Belcher's, said he never saw any hints of problems in his personal life.
"He's a very quiet kid, a nice guy -- a hard-working kid," Becht said. "He worked his way up from a small college to being a starter in the NFL. You never know what would trigger that. I would never -- if I'd try to think of someone who would do this, I wouldn't have ever thought it was this kid."
Becht added: "There was nothing about him that seemed abnormal; it's not like he was on the field ripping guys' heads off. He was a hard-nosed player, he practiced hard, in the locker room he'd hang out. What could have caused him to make him do that?"
Belcher and Perkins' daughter, Zoey Michelle, was featured on Perkins' Instagram page. It includes pictures of Perkins while she was pregnant, at the Chiefs' complex and in the hospital holding Zoey, who was born on Sept. 11. One photo shows a smiling Perkins and Belcher with the baby. Zoey was unharmed, the police said, and was in the care of Shepherd, Belcher's mother.
Snapp, in televised briefings with local stations, said there were reports of trouble between Belcher and Perkins. "We had heard that they had been arguing in the past," Snapp said.
There was little public information about Belcher's injury history.
In West Babylon, at the home of Shepherd, friends and relatives gathered Saturday to toast him, playing songs and displaying photos and football memorabilia.
"I couldn't believe it," Ruben Marshall, 42, a family friend who had coached Belcher in the town's youth football league. "I didn't want to believe it. He was a good man. A good, loving father, a family man."