An American football player fatally shot his girlfriend Saturday, then drove to Kansas City Chiefs' Arrowhead Stadium and committed suicide in front of his coach and general manager.
Authorities did not release a possible motive for the murder-suicide, though police said that linebacker Jovan Belcher and his girlfriend, 22-year-old Kasandra M Perkins, had been arguing recently. The two of them have a three-month-old child.
Belcher thanked general manager Scott Pioli and coach Romeo Crennel before shooting himself in the parking lot of the team's practice facility, police said. Police had locked it down by mid-morning and reporters were confined to the street just outside the gates.
The Chiefs were scheduled to play the Carolina Panthers on Sunday at Arrowhead Stadium. The Panthers were advised by the league to travel to Kansas City as planned, though no official announcement on the game itself had been made.
Belcher was a 25-year-old native of West Babylon, New York, on Long Island, who played college ball at Maine. He signed with the Chiefs as an undrafted free agent, made the team and stayed with it for four years, moving into the starting line-up. He had played in all 11 games this season.
"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.
"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 counselling resources are available to all members of the organisation."
The National Football League released a statement that also expressed sympathy and said "we have connected the Chiefs with our national team of professional counsellors to support both the team and the families of those affected. We will continue to provide assistance in any way that we can."
Belcher is the latest among several players and National Football League retirees to die from self-inflicted gunshot wounds in the past couple of years. The death of the popular San Diego Chargers linebacker Junior Seau, who shot himself in the chest in at his California home in May, less than two-and-a-half years after his playing career ended, sent shockwaves around the league.
Seau's family, like those of other suicide victims, has donated brain tissue from the linebacker's body for research to determine if head injuries he sustained playing football might be linked to his death.