KANSAS CITY, Missouri (Reuters) - The National Football League (NFL) was left reeling in horror on Saturday after Kansas City Chiefs linebacker Jovan Belcher murdered his girlfriend and committed suicide.
The 25-year-old Belcher shot Kassandra Perkins at their home on Saturday morning then drove his car to the team’s training facility near Arrowhead Stadium and turned the gun on himself just as police arrived.
“As officers pulled up and were getting ready to get out of their car, they heard a gunshot,” Kansas City police spokesman Darin Snapp said.
“The individual, it appears, took his own life.”
Snapp said Belcher shot himself in the head in front of Chiefs’ head coach Romeo Crennel and general manager Scott Pioli.
“He was not threatening the employees at all,” Snapp said. “He was just talking to them and thanking them for everything they had done for him.”
Snapp said police had earlier been called to a nearby house after reports that a woman, identified as Belcher’s 22-year-old girlfriend Perkins, had been shot multiple times. She was later pronounced dead at hospital.
Local media reported that Belcher and Perkins had a three-month-old daughter and Perkins’ mother witnessed the killing and called police.
“This is part of the tragedy of urban living in this country,” Kansas City Mayor Sly James told reporters outside the practice facility.
“Handguns all over the place, people blowing themselves away, and others. At some point we have to get a handle on this kind of stuff. We are not doing a good job of it.”
The Chiefs’ chairman Clark Hunt issued a statement.
“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,” Hunt wrote.
“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 Chiefs have won just one of 11 games this season, the worst record in the NFL. They were due to host the Carolina Panthers at Arrowhead on Sunday.
The Chiefs confirmed to the NFL that the game would go ahead.
“Our thoughts and prayers are with the Chiefs and the families and friends of those who lost their lives in this terrible tragedy,” an NFL spokesman said.
“We have connected the Chiefs with our national team of professional counselors to support both the team and the families of those affected. We will continue to provide assistance in any way that we can.”
Belcher was signed by the Chiefs in 2009 after he was overlooked in the NFL draft and established himself as a regular starter in his second season.
Earlier this year, he signed a one-year deal worth just under $2 million. This season Belcher started 10 of 11 games, making 38 tackles.
Belcher is just the latest NFL player to commit suicide in recent years, amid increasing concerns about the long term dangers of head injuries from repeated concussions in the sport.
The tight-knit NFL community was stunned by the latest news.
“There is nothing profound or comforting to say that can help us understand or explain a situation like this,” tweeted NFL Players Association assistant executive George Atallah.
Defensive end Justin Tuck, a two-time Super Bowl winner with the New York Giants, also passed on his condolences to the Chiefs on his Twitter account.
“Man prayers go out to the KC Chiefs community and families after this mornings tragic incident,” he wrote.
Reporting by Kevin Murphy; Editing by Julian Linden