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Why, Jovan Belcher? Why?

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — At 7:50 am CT, an emergency call to Kansas City Police. A mother’s frantic voice alerts authorities of a shooting. Police arrive to hear that distressed woman tell of her daughter being shot multiple times.

Kasandra Perkins - Slain Girlfriend of Javon Belcher
Kasandra Perkins – Slain Girlfriend of Javon Belcher

The victim, 22-year Kasandra Perkins, the girlfriend of 25-year old Kansas City linebacker, Jovan Belcher, and mother of the couple’s 3-year old girl. Perkins is transported to a local hospital where she later expires.

Five miles away, Belcher arrives at the Kansas City’s Arrowhead complex. Chiefs’ General Manager Scott Pioli and Head Coach Romeo Crennel meet Belcher in the parking lot. Belcher thanks the men for giving him an opportunity to play for the Chiefs. But the brief meeting is unlike any before. This time, Belcher is holding a gun to his head. As police reach the scene, Belcher walks 30 to 40 feet away from Pioli and Crennel. A shot rings out. And as KCTV5 Kansas City reported, Belcher is dead.

What began as an argument after Perkins was late returning from a Trey Songz concert has a city in-shock as though a seismic earthquake had shaken its foundations. An already troubled professional sports franchise is devastated. A marquee league is again reminded of its frailties, even as the tragic suicide of Junior Seau is still fresh in its psyche. Family members are devastated. And the life of an infant, while oblivious to the day’s terrible events, has forever changed.

Human nature instinctively tries to interpret moments like these:

Jovan Belcher
Jovan Belcher. Author: Jeffrey Beall. Date: November 14, 2010. This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.

“You know, I struggle a little bit because, obviously, Jovan Belcher’s profile elevates the subject, but there are hundreds of young people who’ve lost their lives and they’re all tragic. They’re all regrettable, they’re all things that, hopefully, we could have avoided. This one was particularly bad because of the circumstances…

I can tell you that you have absolutely no idea of what it’s like to see somebody kill themselves,” James said. “If you can take your worst nightmare and then put somebody you know and love into that situation and give them a gun and stand 3 feet away from them and watch them kill themselves, that’s what it’s like. It’s unfathomable. It’s something that you would love to wash away from your mind, but you can’t do it. There’s nothing like it. There’s nothing like it. Think about your worst nightmare and multiply by five…

I just hope people will look at the act and not try to judge the person…There are a lot of things you don’t know, that people don’t know…

There are a lot of people who are hurting. There is a young baby without parents.”  — Kansas City Mayor, Sly James

 “Times like this you have to pray!!! I love you man, brothers for life!!!!”  — Wide receiver Dexter McCluster (on Twitter)

“I am devastated by this mornings (sic) events. I want to send my thoughts and prayers out to everyone effected (sic) by this tragedy,”Linebacker Tamba Hali (on Twitter)

“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. 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.”  Kansas City Chiefs Chairman & CEO Clark Hunt

In the wake of tragedy, James’ comments are appropriate. There is much that we don’t know.

We don’t know at what point in a young Pop Warner League experience did Belcher show signs of being special. We are not certain how many times his mother and father had to call the young talent in from a pick-up street game. Or how many residents of West Babylon, New York cheered as Belcher made some dazzling play on his high school football team. We don’t know to what extent being a two-time All American at the University of Maine filled the empty places that exist in all of us. And we don’t know in all of Belcher’s success, whether somewhere along the way, someone, anyone saw signs of trouble but ignored them because of his celebrity.

What we do know is the Kansas City Chiefs’ abysmal record is suddenly not as important today as it was this time last week. We know that in a few days, grieving people will gather at two funerals to lay to rest Kasandra Perkins and Jovan Belcher. And that bitter tears will roll down the faces of loved ones desperately seeking meaning.

This “why” question will return unanswered. The only voice capable of responding is quiet.

But we know, absent a response, that absolutely nothing is so disturbing that turning a gun on someone we love or oneself is the necessary option. Nothing is irreparable, even a broken heart, to steal the promises of a better tomorrow. Nothing so urgent to settle all scores in bloodshed. And nothing so hopeless to leave people with a lifetime of grief.

 

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