- TOP PLAYERSOffensePABLO S. TORRE | August 20, 2012
- TAMPA BAY buccaneersENEMY lines WHAT A RIVAL COACH SAYSJune 28, 2012
- Faces in the CrowdJune 11, 2001
Belcher and Perkins, York says, enjoyed going to gun ranges together. Once, when York was at the couple's house, she noticed a handgun on the kitchen table. "I guess they forgot it was out," she says. Dunson-Rusher recalls once seeing a rifle leaning against a chair in the room she called Belcher's man cave. Again, underscoring how wide the gulf can be between one perception of a man and another, every one of the West Babylon friends of Belcher's who spoke with SI had no idea he was interested in guns.
According to a law enforcement official close to the investigation—and contrary to published reports—Belcher spent Friday night "partying" with another woman at the Power and Light District, a bar area in downtown K.C. He returned home between 6:30 and 7 a.m. at which point he and Perkins argued. Then, with his own mother in the house, Belcher used a handgun to shoot the mother of his baby girl nine times. He then drove to the Chiefs' practice facility in a Bentley so new it had temporary plates.
At the facility, Belcher jumped out of the car holding a different handgun and encountered general manager Scott Pioli, who was heading into the building. Belcher thanked Pioli for giving him a chance as an undrafted player. He then confessed that he had shot his girlfriend and insisted that he was not going to jail. He asked to have head coach Romeo Crennel sent out. Crennel emerged, and Belcher thanked him too.
Crennel and Pioli pleaded with Belcher to put the gun down, but Belcher was beyond coach's orders. He turned around and walked about 20 feet. He took a knee—as football players do at the end of games from the time they're in peewee—and shot himself in the head.
Inevitably, those who knew Belcher were left wondering what they could have done. Before she blocked her Twitter feed, Higgins, Belcher's girlfriend at Maine, wrote, "I just can't help but to think what if I didn't miss that phone call." Said Jets defensive end Mike DeVito, who hosted Belcher on his recruiting trip to Maine and played alongside him for three seasons, "I wish I had stayed in contact with him, because you'll always wonder, could you have helped?" Said Jarrod Gomes, who played safety in college beside Belcher, "We can't believe it.... We're trying to figure out what was really going on in his life."
If Belcher needed urgent help, none of the people who spoke with SI knew it. "I'd never seen any outbursts," said Willis Miles, Belcher's uncle.
A video on the Kansas City Star website shows Belcher sprawled on the floor of a church, patiently tutoring an eight-year-old in reading. On Belcher's public Facebook page, he "liked" photography and Family Guy. As professional athletes go, he seemed so knowable. But "likes" can go only so far in revealing the true substance of a person and just what is going on in his mind. Now, all who knew Belcher—from his mother, Cheryl Shepard, who was to return to New York with her orphaned granddaughter, to the player's friends in Kansas City, Maine and West Babylon—are left to wonder who they really knew.
Chris Almonte, a 23-year-old father of six and a friend of Belcher's from the CMG, was working in his yard when he got a phone call with the news on Saturday morning. It was so at odds with his conception of Belcher that all Almonte could think to do was to bury the phone in the hole he had been digging, as if that would make the news go away.
Like Cosgrove, Belcher's high school coach, Albert Ritacco, has been around football players long enough to understand what he cannot understand. "I can't find anything negative to say from the four years I coached him," Ritacco says. "But trying to understand what goes on in a man's life outside of football is a little different. I don't know why things happen in life. Who knows?"