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Kansas City Chiefs officials knew that linebacker Jovan Belcher and his girlfriend were having relationship problems, and the team provided the couple with counseling in an effort to help, a police official said.More >
KANSAS CITY, MO (KCTV) -
The mother of Jovan Belcher says concussions he sustained while playing football led to him becoming insane and killing his girlfriend before taking his own life at Arrowhead Stadium.
Cheryl Shepherd filed a lawsuit against the Kansas City Chiefs in Jackson County Circuit Court on Friday. This was the second concussion-related lawsuit filed on the last day of the year against the Chiefs.
Former players Joe Horn and Tamarick Vanover, who has had multiple brushes with the law and served federal prison time, sued on Friday, saying injuries suffered while playing for the Chiefs led to brain trauma, including Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy. They are among the more high-profile players to file a lawsuit against the Chiefs over head injuries.
Missouri law allows these type of lawsuits to be filed in the Show-Me State.
Belcher's mother recently had his body exhumed in order to examine his brain. The lawsuit does not reveal those results, but says Belcher suffered multiple concussions and blows to the head during his playing days.
Belcher was the middle linebacker for the Chiefs from March 2009 through Dec. 1, 2012. He was drunk when he fired nine shots into Kasandra Perkins' body inside their residence before driving to the practice facility, where he shot himself in the head in front of then-coach Romeo Crennel, a second coach and then-general manager Scott Pioli.
"Tragically, the (Chiefs) wrongful conduct destroyed multiple lives, tore apart families and ultimately caused or contributed to cause Jovan's death," the lawsuit says.
In her lawsuit, Shepherd says Belcher sustained multiple concussions during his playing days and that the Chiefs failed to provide adequate medical care for his injuries.
She claims Pioli, Chiefs coaches and team leaders "engaged in a systematic campaign of mental abuse to 'motivate' [Belcher] to play through his injuries," the lawsuit states.
Pioli and other Chiefs leaders "often berated" Belcher, the lawsuit claims, "telling him on numerous occasions that 'he was just an accident and they would get rid of him.'"
"The defendant's constant bullying pressure and stress coupled with decedent's occupational neurological impairments caused or contributed to cause decedent to become insane," the lawsuit says.
The Chiefs "micromanaged virtually every aspect of" Belcher's life including his diet, speed, strength and body-mass index, yet failed to monitor his mental health and brain functions. Instead, he was forced to play through his injuries and was exposed to further brain damage, the lawsuit says. The Chiefs failed to act even though they knew he was suffering symptoms and signs "of cognitive and neuropsychiatric impairment."
The lawsuit details Belcher's head injuries during games. On Nov. 9, 2009, Belcher was knocked unconscious while playing the Jacksonville Jaguars. The Chiefs did not take him to the locker room for evaluation and didn't give him time to fully recover. Instead, he was practicing within days and played the following week.
The lawsuit also says Belcher suffered an acute concussion on Nov. 12, 2012, during the game at Arrowhead against the Cincinnati Bengals, but the Chiefs failed to evaluate him properly and get him treatment. Shepherd contends that friends, teammates and family members noticed his mental functions deteriorated after the Bengals game.
In October and November 2012, he was ordered to see a counselor and the Chiefs knew he was showing changes in his mood and behaviors, Shepherd claims. She said friends, teammates and family members noticed his mental functions deteriorated after the Bengals game, including memory loss, confusion, depression, mood swings and rages. He suffered from severe and persistent headaches.
The Chiefs had previously revealed that they had helped provide counseling for Belcher and Perkins. KCTV5 reached out to the Chiefs for a comment about the lawsuit but has yet to hear back.
Shepherd claims that the Chiefs sought to cover up Belcher's brain injuries and failed to have an analysis done of his brain as was done for former San Diego great Junior Seau after he killed himself.
Shepherd says the Chiefs' actions are similar to the tactics used by the tobacco industry.
"Just as the tobacco industry proposed alternative causes for the health conditions of its consumers, the defendant has suggested that (Belcher's) health conditions and abnormal behaviors were caused by alcohol, steroids, depression and aggressive personality traits," the lawsuit says.
Shepherd claims that CTE injuries are the cause of many former NFL players dying prematurely or acting violent, but the Chiefs and other NFL teams are driven by greed, and fail to warn players about the dangers of brain injuries suffered during games.
Belcher's mother unsuccessfully sought custody of his daughter, Zoey. A Jackson County judge awarded custody of the baby to a maternal relative.
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