A complicated portrait of Jovan Belcher (pictured) has emerged in the days after he reportedly snapped, unloading nine bullets in to the Mother of his 3-month-old daughter on Saturday morning. Belcher allegedly dropped the weapon and fled from his home in upscale Independence, Mo., in his Bentley. Later, outside the Kansas Chief’s practice facility at Arrowhead Stadium, where he was a linebacker, he talked briefly with staff and the general manager in the parking lot before delivering a fatal gunshot wound to his head. “I got to go,” he said. “I can’t be here,” according to the Daily News.
Belcher apparently made the statement after realizing the gravity of shooting Kasandra Perkins, 22, his girlfriend and Mother of his daughter, Zoey. Reportedly, Belcher and Perkins argued, after he returned home from a night of drinking with another woman. Belcher and Perkins reportedly had a strained relationship and his mother was at their home to babysit. But many questions remain: did violent collisions on the playing field cause Belcher to snap or were other factors at play?
Here is what has been reported so far about a possible concussion. A friend told the sports website Deadspin that the linebacker suffered from short-term memory loss following a Nov. 18th game against the Cincinnati Bengals, according to the New York Daily News. Since 2011, at least five other NFL players have committed suicide, including Junior Seau, Dave Duerson, Kurt Crain, O.J. Murdock, and Ray Easterling. Autopsies of Duerson and Easterling found that both showed signs of chronic traumatic encephalopathy, a degenerative disease caused by repeated blows to the head.
But Chiefs chairman Clark Hunt told ABC News that Belcher was “a player who had not had a long concussion history,” even though he was a three-time all-America wrestler and a star on the football team at his West Babylon, N.Y., high school.
And the violence was so dramatic that other emotional stressors were likely at play, said David Grand, a Manhattan and Long Island-based sports psychotherapist and author of “This Is Your Brain on Sports: Beating Blocks, Slumps and Performance Anxiety for Good!“:
“You could be talking about a 100 other guys going through the same sort of thing,” Dr. Grand, who never treated Belcher, told NewsOne about athletes dealing with concussions. “Ninety-nine other guys do not go out and kill their girlfriends. A concussion could have exacerbated whatever other problems he was having. You may start to hear news reports or evidence of violence toward women in the past.
“This is extreme behavior,” Dr. Grand said. “It’s as extreme as it gets. There is something in a person’s early history where they were abused or exposed to abuse to have something like this happen. But it’s hard to diagnose someone if you haven’t treated them. I would, however, start trying to answer some of these questions by looking at the family he grew up with, not to point fingers but to seek answers.”
And the Kansas City Star reports that during his four years with the Chief, Belcher, along with his teammates, attended dozens of NFL-sponsored meetings devoted to issues, including handling personal and family relationships, depression, finances, drug and alcohol use, proper use of firearms, and where to find help and counsel for anything that might be bothering them.
Kansas City Chiefs officials had been providing Belcher and Perkins with counseling, according to the Associated Press, for relationship and financial problems. But no one ever suspected that domestic violence would take a toll on the couple and that Perkins would become a statistic. African-American women suffer fatal violence from family members and partners at rates decidedly higher than for other racial groups in the United States, according to Violence Against Women Online Resources.
Terrie Williams, a clinical social worker, anti-violence expert, and founder of her own public relations firm, said that there are usually signs of problems before something as explosive as Saturday’s events occur.
“All emotional problems stem from childhood,” Williams told NewsOne. “Let me be clear, unless one gets help, these problems can be passed on to adulthood. But without treating the parties involved, I can’t say exactly what went on with them. But it’s all about mental health, proper treatment, and breaking the cycle of violence. I’ve heard and read the reports about a possible concussion, which would exacerbate any emotional problems that he may have had, but at this point, we have to wait for all of the information to come out. It’s all very disconcerting and sad. I feel for both of their families and their child.”
On Wednesday, the 911 call of Belcher’s mother, Cheryl Shepherd, were released. On the call with Kansas City emergency dispatchers, Shepherd said, “She’s still breathing but please hurry. I don’t know how he (inaudible), they were arguing, please hurry.”
The shaken Mother then can be heard yelling for Perkins to stay alive, “Stay with me, the ambulance is on the way. Stay with me Kasandra, stay with me.”
Listen to the tragic 911 call here (WARNING: Some may find this call disturbing):