Updated: 12/02/2012 1:15 PM KSTP.com By: Kaitlin Stevens
Fans grilled, played catch and enjoyed beverages on an unseasonably warm and sunny day outside Arrowhead Stadium, a little more than 24 hours after a Chiefs player killed himself nearby after shooting his girlfriend.
The festive atmosphere masked some of the pain Chiefs fans felt after hearing that linebacker Jovan Belcher had killed 22-year-old Kasandra M. Perkins then driven to the team practice facility and turned the gun on himself, orphaning the couple's infant daughter.
Coach Romeo Crennel and general manager Scott Pioli had tried to stop Belcher, and watched powerless as he shot himself in the head after thanking both of them for giving him a chance in the NFL.
"To have to witness that, I don't think you would wish that on your worst enemy," Chiefs fan Ty Rowton said. "That memory will never, ever leave them."
Missing from the sky above Arrowhead Stadium was the small plane that had carried a banner during previous home games calling for Pioli's firing. Fans, many of whom had been wearing black Chiefs apparel in recent games to protest the team's performance, turned out in red again.
"Now everybody's just in shock," Rowton said.
The stadium was less than half full, and quieter than usual, though the fans made some noise when Peyton Hillis scored a touchdown. The big running back took the ball over to the sideline, where he handed it to Crennel and gave the coach a big hug.
Before kickoff, the crowd was asked to observe a moment of silence for victims of domestic violence and their families. Belcher was not mentioned.
Chiefs fan Ben Cunningham, a 32-year-old who has missed only one home game in 23 years, said he feels sorry for the families and friends who now must endure the aftermath of Saturday's shootings, but not for Belcher.
"I don't have much sympathy for him," Cunningham said. "He caused a lot of heartbreak for a lot of people."
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