(NEW YORK) — The Kansas City Chiefs are facing off against the Carolina Panthers Sunday, one day after linebacker Jovan Belcher killed his girlfriend before turning the gun on himself in front of his coaches.
“This just doesn’t seem real…praying for 59 and his family,” Kansas City Chiefs offensive tackle David Mims tweeted, referring to the number Belcher wore on the field.
The decision to play the game as scheduled Sunday came “after discussions between the league office, Head Coach Romeo Crennel and Chiefs team captains,” the franchise said in a statement.
On Saturday morning, Belcher, 25, shot and killed his girlfriend, Kasandra Perkins, 22, before driving to Arrowhead Stadium, police said.
“We heard that they had been arguing in the past [and] as far as recently, they’d been arguing before the shooting occurred this morning,” Kansas City Police spokesman Darin Snapp said.
The couple had lived together and had a 3-month-old daughter.
A woman first alerted police Saturday morning that her daughter had been shot by her boyfriend, who was a Kansas City Chiefs player, Snapp said. Police initially believed the woman was Perkins’ mother, but later learned she was Belcher’s mother, who lived with the couple to help care for their daughter and according to family members was extremely close to Perkins.
Belcher drove to the stadium where he held a gun to his head in the parking lot and talked to his coaches.
“They said the player was actually thanking them for everything they’d done for him,” Snapp said. “They were just talking to him and he was thanking them and everything. That’s when he walked away and shot himself.”
Belcher appeared to have pulled the trigger when officers arrived at the stadium, Snapp said.
The 6-foot-2, 228-pound linebacker joined the Kansas City Chiefs in 2009, and had spent all four seasons of his career with the team. He has played in every game since joining the team and was considered to be a rising star.
Originally from West Babylon, N.Y., where he was a three-time all-America wrestler in addition to playing on the football team, Belcher went undrafted out of the University of Maine, where he started all 45 games in which he played.
Maine Head Football Coach Jack Cosgrove described Jovan as a “tremendous student-athlete.”
“His move to the NFL was in keeping with his dreams,” Cosgrove said in a statement released by the university today. “This is an indescribably horrible tragedy. At this difficult time, our thoughts and prayers are with Jovan, Kasandra and their families.”
Belcher signed with the Chiefs as a rookie free agent, started 15 of 16 games his second season and last year started all 16 games as left inside linebacker.
Belcher expressed gratitude for his NFL career in an article posted on Nov. 21 on the Chiefs’ website that has since been taken down.
“First and foremost, God. Family and friends just keeping me focused, coaches and just everyone,” he said.
Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio
Catherine E. Shoichet, CNN
Selena Larson, CNN
Stephen Collinson, CNN
Tom LoBianco, Deirdre Walsh and Tal Kopan, CNN