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Police: Kansas City Chiefs linebacker kills girlfriend, then himself

Around 8 a.m. Saturday, police say Kansas City Chiefs linebacker Jovan Belcher shot his girlfriend and then drove to the stadium where he shot himself in front of staff there. NBC's Thanh Truong reports.

Updated at 8:15 p.m. ET: KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Kansas City Chiefs linebacker Jovan Belcher shot his girlfriend several times after an argument and then drove to Arrowhead Stadium, where he committed suicide, authorities said.

Standing in the parking lot of the team's practice facility, Belcher held a gun to his head and spoke to his coach and general manager, thanking them for all they had done for him. Then he pulled the trigger.  

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Authorities did not release a possible motive for the murder-suicide, although police said that Belcher, 25, and his girlfriend, 22-year-old Kasandra M. Perkins, had been arguing recently.

The two are parents to 3-month-old Zoey. Belcher's mother, who reported the shooting at the Kansas City home, had moved in with the couple to help care for the infant. 

The team said it would play its home game against the Carolina Panthers as scheduled on Sunday at noon local time "after discussions between the league office, Head Coach Romeo Crennel and Chiefs team captains."

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

NBC Sports: Chiefs to play Panthers at regularly scheduled time

Belcher was a native of West Babylon, N.Y., on Long Island, where he had played football but wasn't recruited to play college ball, according to the Boston Globe. Rather, he was a star wrestler who kept trim -- 6-foot-2 and under 200 pounds. 

In 2008, Belcher told the Globe: "I do like being the underdog because you can come up and surprise people."

At the University of Maine, Belcher became the team captain and was named national defensive player of the year.

"When he got to campus, he was a phenomenally impressive young man, in how he conducted himself in and around the young men in our program," Maine coach Jack Cosgrove told the Globe at the time. "We were fortunate nobody else recruited him." 

Cosgrove described Belcher's "infectious smile" and said he was a great role model who worked well with children -- the football player had been a child development and family relations major.  

"His move to the NFL was in keeping with his dreams," Cosgrove said Saturday.

Belcher wasn't picked up as a possible draftee by the NFL. So he signed with the Kansas City Chiefs as an undrafted free agent, made the team and stayed with it for four years, moving into the starting lineup. He'd played in all 11 games this season.

He also stayed connected with his college passion. The Kansas City Star newspaper has video of the linebacker reading with a third-grade boy. 

"I love doing stuff like this because I went to school to work with young adolescents," Belcher told the Star. "I feel like I can connect with kids real well." 

Chiefs chairman Clark Hunt issued a statement Saturday, saying, "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." 

A member of the Kansas City Chiefs has reportedly died after shooting himself at the team facility early Saturday.

NBC Sports: Chiefs' owner Clark Hunt 'deeply saddened'  

The NFL also released a statement expressing sympathy: "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."

Saturday breakdown
Authorities reported receiving a call Saturday morning from Belcher's mother, who said it was her daughter who had been shot multiple times at a residence about five miles from the Arrowhead complex, an identification that initally led to confusion.

"She treated Kasandra like a daughter," said Kansas City police spokesman Darin Snapp. Perkins was pronounced dead at a hospital.

Police then received a phone call from the Chiefs' training facility.

"We kind of knew what we were dealing with," Snapp 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 (General Manager Scott) 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."

At Belcher's mother's home on Long Island, relatives declined to talk to reporters. A purple SUV in the home's driveway was flying a small Kansas City Chiefs flag.

Perkins' Facebook page shows the couple smiling and holding the baby. Jennifer Ashley, a friend of Perkins, told the Star that Perkins was a student at Blue River Community College in nearby Independence and that she wanted to be a teacher.

Ashley told the Star that Perkins was introduced to Belcher by the girlfriend of another Chiefs’ player. 

The young mother updated her Instagram account regularly with photos of baby Zoey and Belcher. On Friday, she posted photos of Belcher smiling and kissing their daughter

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

Seau's family, like those of other suicide victims, has donated his brain tissue to determine if head injuries he sustained playing football might be linked to his death.

Belcher did not have an extensive injury history, though the linebacker showed up on the official injury report on Nov. 11, 2009, as being limited in practice with a head injury. 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.

Kansas City Mayor Sly James said that he spoke to Pioli after the shooting.

"It's unfathomable ... Think about your worst nightmare and multiply it by five," James said.

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 marked by injuries, poor play and fan upheaval, with constant calls the past several weeks for Pioli and Crennel to be fired.

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.

This article includes reporting from NBC News staff and The Associated Press. 

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