The police officers had gathered near the entrance of the Kansas City Chiefs’ practice facility to cordon off the scene of the shooting. The press stood shoulder-to-shoulder, waiting for word. One by one cars and SUVs filed in, carrying grieving and shocked players and coaches to a place where a single shot changed all of their lives.
On Saturday morning, as the Chiefs’ waking nightmare came to light for the rest of a city with a deep emotional connection to its football team, the same profound feelings spread among players, coaches, front-office personnel, media, fans and even the police: Shock, sadness, anger, disbelief and that numbing realization that something terrible has happened that cannot be undone.
Kansas City police said Saturday that Chiefs starting linebacker Jovan Belcher shot and killed his girlfriend — 22-year-old Kasandra Perkins — in front of his own mother at his Kansas City home before driving to the Chiefs practice facility.
There, police say, the 25-year-old spoke to Chiefs officials before turning the gun on himself and committing suicide as those officials looked on.
Kansas City mayor Sly James appeared before reporters and filled in some of the details.
James said Chiefs general manager Scott Pioli and head coach Romeo Crennel witnessed Belcher’s suicide. James told reporters about Pioli: “He’s very emotional about this.” He also said the Chiefs think there should be a game tomorrow.
“Think about your worst nightmare,” James said, “and multiply it by five.”
Chiefs chairman and CEO Clark Hunt released this 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. 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."
Several Chiefs players reacted on Twitter, where they shared their thoughts.
“I am devastated by this mornings [sic] events,” Chiefs linebacker Tamba Hali wrote. “I want to send my thoughts and prayers out to everyone effected [sic] by this tragedy.”
Chiefs wide receiver Dexter McCluster Tweeted this: “Times like this you have to pray!!! I love you man, brothers for life!!!!”
Across Kansas City, on a gloomy Saturday in which overcast skies and a slight chill matched the mood as this news spread, folks grappled with what this means.
While the NFL told the Carolina Panthers to travel to Kansas City and the Chiefs said the game will go on as scheduled, many people had hoped the decision would come down for a postponement of at least a day.
What everyone seems able to agree on here is that this Chiefs’ season — mired in a 1-10 tailspin that has consumed this town since August and focused considerable consternation toward Pioli and Crennel — no longer merits the emotional energy needed to be angry about football.
For today, at least, there is some perspective because what matters is this: A young woman has been murdered, a newborn orphaned, a troubled young man dead by his own hand and several well-known Kansas City football men saw the bloody end to a tragedy that will have an impact for a very long time.
That sinking feeling of loss — of an innocent life taken, of a child with a life now fractured, of the idea such horror can simply sneak into our own lives — those are the things meeting at the intersection of Chiefs football and this city.
Football right now in Kansas City? It matters very little, if at all. But what happened, and the fact it happened to the Chiefs, means the real meaning behind the day’s events and the horror and sadness it’s created will sit numbly with most folks here because it will have happened to something they love and the people who are part of it.
You can follow Bill Reiter on Twitter or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.