June 18, 2018
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Belcher murder-suicide demonstrates fragile, unpredictable nature of life

Michael C. York | BDN
Michael C. York | BDN
UMaine's Jovan Belcher performs in the timed dash portion of the NFL scout evaluation for signing with a pro football team, Thursday, March 26, 2009, in the Mahaney Dome at the University of Maine.
By Pete Warner, BDN Staff

ORONO, Maine — Unfathomable.

There is no other way to describe the horrific events of Saturday morning in Kansas City.

A 25-year-old man gets into an argument with his girlfriend, at the time they should have been sitting down together at the kitchen table to enjoy some bacon and eggs and a glass of orange juice.

The man’s mother is visiting from New York to help take care of the couple’s 3-month-old daughter.

Somewhere during the spat, he becomes enraged and pulls out a gun. He shoots the 22-year-old mother of his child several times.

Frantic, the man leaves the house, gets into his car and drives 15 minutes across town to his workplace. There, he is confronted in the parking lot by two of his bosses and a supervisor. They attempt to calm him as he clutches a handgun.

The man responds by thanking them for giving him the opportunity to pursue his career with the organization. As the police pull into the parking lot, the man brings the horrific incident to a halt when he shoots himself in the head.

It could have been anyone: A deranged drug addict, a disgruntled government worker, a psychiatric patient. But it wasn’t.

It was Jovan Belcher.

The same young man who had rocketed to stardom as a defensive end on the University of Maine football team. The 2008 Colonial Athletic Association Defensive Player of the Year. The consensus first-team All-American.

The humble, soft-spoken guy whose beaming smile brought one to the faces of those who had the chance to play, study, live and work with him.

The same Jovan Belcher who belonged to Male Athletes Against Violence and who earned a degree in child development and family relations in 3½ years, even while balancing the full-time job that is Division I football.

The caring mentor who spent quality time with youngsters in the Greater Bangor area as part of the Big Brothers, Big Sisters organization.

Belcher, inexplicably, pissed it all away.

The $1.9 million contract he signed in March with the NFL’s Kansas City Chiefs. The relationship with his girlfriend, Kasandra Perkins. The potential of seeing those initial stumbling steps, the first words, the high school graduation, of their daughter, Zoey.

The Christmases with his mother and family. The laughs and memories with his former UMaine teammates. The chance to be a role model.

All. Instantly. Gone.

While he was in Orono, few could have met Belcher and not come away impressed. Off the field, he bore no resemblance to the relentless, bone-jarring player who chased down opponents on Saturday afternoons.

That Jovan was quiet. He was polite. He was respectful. At least most of the time.

As one Black Bears football supporter said, Belcher was one of those young men who looked you in the eyes when you were talking to him and always went out of his way to say hello.

For most of his 25 years on this earth, Jovan Belcher appears to have exhibited normal, rational behavior.

At some point after leaving the support system provided by coach Jack Cosgrove, the coaching staff, the student-athletes, the professors and the employees at UMaine, something changed.

Only those who knew Belcher intimately — Kasandra, his mother, maybe a special friend — might have any insight into what could have pushed him to the point of killing someone he loved, and himself.

It has been suggested repeated blows to the head, a concussion or concussions, altered the way he looked at the world. Former NFL players Junior Seau and Dave Duerson might have agreed but they’re dead, too, also from self-inflicted gunshot wounds.

Maybe, as one anonymous “friend” suggested in emails to a website, Belcher had been numbed by daily consumption of alcohol and the use of prescription painkillers. Perhaps such poisons further clouded a mind already jumbled by punishing blows absorbed on the football field.

It might not have come to this, but at some point after moving to Kansas City in 2009, police say, Belcher bought a gun. That decision eventually transformed an irrational Belcher into a murderer.

Something went terribly, inexplicably wrong on Saturday. The Jovan Belcher those of us in Maine knew, admired and, in some cases, loved — snapped.

Now, two young people are dead. Their families are inconsolable. Their friends are devastated. The rest of us are shocked.

The sad story is an unfortunate reminder about the unpredictable and fragile nature of the world in which we live.

Sometimes even people who have, by all acounts, led exemplary lives wind up performing a despicable act that defies all explanation.

Jovan Belcher seems to be one of them and as such he will be remembered at divergent ends of the emotional spectrum.

His family, friends in his hometown of West Babylon, N.Y., his former teammates and coaches at UMaine and others will recall the loyalty, the exuberance, the infectious smile.

Kasandra Perkins’ family likely will remember Belcher as a thoughtless, selfish person who killed their loved one.

Many NFL fans and casual observers know him only as a crazed football player who perpetrated a murder-suicide.

They are all correct, given their different perspectives.

I would be remiss in not extending most heartfelt sympathies to everyone who knew and loved Belcher and Perkins. The healing process will be a long and difficult one for family, friends and co-workers.

Hopefully, they have faith.

Yet none of us should be so presumptuous as to think we have the answers to what happened Saturday in Kansas City. It was a tragedy.

In spite of what we think we know, Belcher should not be judged by us, rather by God.

Have feedback? Want to know more? Send us ideas for follow-up stories.

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