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Murder-suicide involving Chiefs' player stuns team

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Murder-suicide involving Chiefs' player stuns team

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) It began like any other Saturday for the Kansas City Chiefs during the NFL season, their general manager and coach at work early to put final touches on this weekend's gameplan. Then they got a call to hurry to the parking lot.

The two men rushed through the glass doors of Chiefs headquarters and came face-to-face with linebacker Jovan Belcher, holding a handgun to his head.

Belcher had already killed his girlfriend and sped the short distance to Arrowhead Stadium, right past a security checkpoint guarding the entrance. Upon finding his bosses, Belcher thanked general manager Scott Pioli and head coach Romeo Crennel for giving him a chance in the NFL. Then he turned away and pulled the trigger.

The murder-suicide shocked a franchise that has been dealing with controversies now made trivial by comparison: eight consecutive losses, injuries too numerous to count, discontent among fans and the prospect that Pioli and Crennel could be fired at season's end.

Authorities did not release a possible motive while piecing together the case, other than to note that Belcher and his girlfriend, 22-year-old Kasandra M. Perkins, had been arguing frequently.

The two of them left behind a 3-month-old girl. She was being cared for by family.

The Chiefs issued a statement that said their game Sunday afternoon against the Carolina Panthers would go on as scheduled, even as the franchise tried to come to grips with the awfulness of Belcher's death.

``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 in brief a statement.

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

``I can tell you that you have absolutely no idea what it's like to see someone kill themselves,'' said Kansas City Mayor Sly James, who spoke to Pioli shortly after the shootings.

``You can take your worst nightmare and put someone you know and love in that situation, and give them a gun and stand three feet away and watch them kill themselves. That's what it's like,'' James said. ``It's unfathomable.''

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. ``I think everyone is wondering whether we would have done something to prevent this from happening.''

The 25-year-old Belcher was from West Babylon, N.Y., and played college football at Maine. He signed with the Chiefs as an undrafted free agent, made the team and hung around the past four years, eventually moving into the starting lineup. He played in all 11 games this season.

The NFL released a statement expressing sympathy and pledging ``to provide assistance in any way that we can.'' The players' association has also been in touch with members of the Chiefs.

``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 counseling resources are available to all members of the organization.''

The drama unfolded early Saturday when authorities received a call from a woman who said her daughter had been shot multiple times at a residence about five miles from the Arrowhead complex. The call came from Belcher's mother, who referred to the victim as her daughter.

``She treated Kasandra like a daughter,'' Kansas City police spokesman Darin Snapp said, adding that the woman had recently moved in with the couple, ``probably to help out with the baby.''

Police then got a phone call from the Chiefs' training facility, and Belcher's description matched the suspect description from the initial address. Snapp said officers pulled into the practice facility parking lot in a matter of minutes, in time to witness the suicide.

``Pioli and Crennel and another coach or employee was standing outside and appeared to be talking to him,'' 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.

``They said the player was actually thanking them for everything they'd done for him,'' Snapp said. ``He was thanking them and everything. That's when he walked away and shot himself.''

Members of the Chiefs mostly laid low Saturday, but a few reacted on Twitter.

``I am devastated by this mornings events,'' Pro Bowl linebacker Tamba Hali wrote. ``I want to send my thoughts and prayers out to everyone effected by this tragedy.''

A large group of Belcher's friends and relatives gathered Saturday at his boyhood home on Long Island.

His family turned the front yard into a shrine, with a large poster of Belcher, an array of his trophies, and jerseys and jackets from Kansas City, Maine and West Babylon High.

``He was a good, good person ... a family man. A loving guy,'' said family friend Ruben Marshall, who said he coached Belcher in youth football. ``You couldn't be around a better person.''

At least 20 people gathered for a large group hug in the driveway.

``He was a tremendous player and all those things, and his accolades speak for themselves, but he lit up when he spoke about his mom, or when he hugged his family after games,'' said Dwayne Wilmot, who was Belcher's position coach at Maine and is now an assistant coach at Yale.

``It's difficult to talk about Jovan in the past tense,'' he told the AP. ``There's going to be unanswered questions, the why's of this tragedy. It'll never be truly known to us.''

Wilmot said he'd stayed in touch with Belcher the past few years through social media.

``He was someone who took genuine pleasure in bringing happiness to others,'' Wilmot said. ``I was so excited when he became a father, because I knew he'd be a great father.''

His girlfriend's Facebook page shows the couple smiling and holding the baby.

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

Seau's family, like those of other suicide victims, donated his brain tissue to medical authorities to determine if head injuries he sustained playing football might be linked to his death. That report has not been released, although an autopsy showed no underlying hemorrhaging or bruises on Seau's brain.

Belcher did not have an extensive injury history, though he was listed as having a head injury on a report from Nov. 11, 2009. 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.

The season has been a massive disappointment for the Chiefs, who were expected to contend for the AFC West title. They're 1-10 and mired in an eight-game skid marked by injuries, poor play and fan upheaval. During the past few weeks there have been constant calls for Pioli and Crennel to be fired.

It's unknown how the Chiefs plan to pay tribute to Belcher during Sunday's game.

``His move to the NFL was in keeping with his dreams,'' said Jack Cosgrove, who coached Belcher at Maine. ``This is an indescribably horrible tragedy.''

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Associated Press Writers Heather Hollingsworth and Frank Eltman contributed to this report.

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Online:http://pro32.ap.org andhttp://twitter.com/AP-NFL

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John Tortorella guarantees series will return to Washington for Game 7

John Tortorella guarantees series will return to Washington for Game 7

After losing Game 1 and Game 2 at home, Alex Ovechkin declared "It’s going to be fun when we bounce back and going to tie the series and come back here and play Game 5 at home.”

Columbus Blue Jackets head coach John Tortorella seems to be taking a similar tactic.

The Capitals won Game 5 in overtime on Saturday in a game that could prove to be emotionally draining for the Blue Jackets in a number of ways.

  • It was Washington's third straight win
  • Columbus was the better team for the majority of the game, but still took the loss
  • The Blue Jackets now face elimination despite holding a 2-0 series lead to start and losing only once in regulation

Tortorella has become famous for his fiery postgame press conferences in the past, including abruptly walking out after Game 4's presser when he declared "We sucked" to the media.

Saturday's was another fun one.

In a presser that lasted less than two minutes, Tortorella twice said, "We'll be back here for Game 7."

After such a draining game, Tortorella was asked how he would get them ready for what is sure to be an emotionally charged Game 6.

"I won't have to say a damn word to them," Tortorella said. "No. We'll be back here for Game 7."

The Blue Jackets will have to win Game 6 in Columbus to make that happen.

Barry Trotz was asked for his reaction after Tortorella's comments.

"What else are you going to say? That's good. He wants to get it out there, he believes in his team just as I believe in my team. It's our job for that not to happen."

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4 reasons the Caps beat the Blue Jackets in Game 5

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The Columbus Blue Jackets were the better team for large stretches of Game 5, but they ultimately weren't good enough. The Washington Capitals defended home ice for the first time this series and escaped with a 4-3 overtime win to take a 3-2 series lead and push the Blue Jackets to the brink.

Here's how Washington won Game 5.

A fluke bounce off of Sergei Bobrovsky’s back

Much was made coming into Game 5 of the fact that the road team had won every game to this point in the series. After winning two straight, it was imperative that for the Caps to come in and take advantage of the home crowd. But Columbus was the better team to start and scored a shorthanded tally for the game’s first goal. There was not much to like about the start…until a fluke bounce tied the game at one. Nicklas Backstrom had the puck behind the goal line and tried to feed it in front. Bobrovsky stuck his stick out to block the pass, but the puck had so much spin on it, it bounced up and off the netminder’s back into the net. A bad start ended up not costing Washington as the score was tied at 1 after the first.

The penalty kill

In the first two games of the series, the Caps gave up four power play goals on eight opportunities. Since then, Washington's PK has been lights out. The Caps gave up five power plays to Columbus in a penalty-filled contest, but killed off all five of them. Washington has not allowed a power play goal since Game 2, killing off 13 straight opportunities in the process.

A critical save by Braden Holtby

The Caps looked like they were out of gas in the third period. They held a 3-2 lead at the start, but yielded the game-tying goal to Oliver Bjorkstrand just 2:30 in and had to survive just to reach overtime. They were outshot 16-1 during that period. Luckily for them, Holtby was on point. All 15 saves Holtby made that period were critical, but none was better than highway robbery he committed on Pierre-Luc Dubois.

Considering how gassed the Caps looked that period, that goal would have been tough to come back from.

Nicklas Backstrom

There was no question who the player of the game was in this one. Backstrom scored the Caps' first goal off the back of Bobrovsky, then deflected in the overtime winner for his second goal of the game. But it goes beyond what he did on the ice. After the game, Barry Trotz said some of the team leaders stepped up in the locker room in between the third period and overtime. He would not name names, but did confirm Backstrom was one of those who spoke out.

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