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DA declines to charge Chiefs’ Hill in domestic violence case

April 25, 2019
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FILE - In this Jan. 18, 2019, file photo, Kansas City Chiefs wide receiver Tyreek Hill talks to the media after a workout in Kansas City, Mo. The Kansas City Chiefs have made a habit of inciting controversy during the NFL draft in the Andy Reid era by acquiring players that have a history of off-the-field issues. The team took a chance on cornerback Marcus Peters, who was traded away after getting into trouble with coaches. It drafted running back Kareem Hunt, then quickly cut him when he kicked a woman in a hotel hallway. And it picked wide receiver Tyreek Hill, who is currently dealing with a domestic violence case that centers on the 3-year-old child he shares with his fiance. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel, File)

OLATHE, Kan. (AP) — A county prosecutor declined to charge Kansas City Chiefs wide receiver Tyreek Hill with a crime Wednesday in a domestic incident that involved his fiance and their 3-year-old child.

Johnson County District Attorney Steve Howe acknowledged that “we believe a crime has occurred, however, the evidence in this case does not conclusively establish who committed this crime.”

Police were called to the Kansas City-area home of Hill and Crystal Espinal twice last month, and investigators determined their child had been injured the second time. Howe said the child was placed in protective care and that there will be “a continued involvement by state officials.”

“I can’t talk about the child, its placement or what is going on in that matter. What I can say is the child is safe,” Howe said. “We want to hold people accountable that hurt children, but there are other mechanisms for us to protect that child other than filing criminal charges.”

The Chiefs issued a comment late Wednesday acknowledging the district attorney’s decision but declining further comment, citing the ongoing investigation by the Department for Children and Families.

Hill is a two-time Pro Bowl wide receiver with a history of domestic issues, including a case in which he was accused of punching Espinal while at Oklahoma State. Hill was kicked off the football team there and landed at a small school in Alabama, where he became a fifth-round pick of the Chiefs.

Hill has blossomed into one of the league’s elite playmakers, and had largely stayed out of trouble until this past month, when authorities were called to his home twice in a nine-day span.

“As a prosecutor, as a father of four, yes, it frustrates me when someone hurts a child and you can’t do anything about it,” said Howe, adding that the investigation took several additional weeks as he waited for police to conduct follow-up work. “One of the elements of a crime is you have to prove who that person is who committed the act.”

Howe said that it was ultimately impossible to determine who injured the child.

The decision comes at an important juncture for the Chiefs, who are busy preparing for the start of the NFL draft on Thursday night. They released running back Kareem Hunt shortly after a video surfaced showing him pushing and kicking a woman in a hotel hallway, and that precedent made it likely the Chiefs would have made a similar decision had charges against Hill been filed.

The Chiefs or the NFL could still punish Hill, and the receiver’s long-term future in Kansas City remains in question. Hill is entering the final year of his rookie contract and appeared poised to land a massive contract, but the Chiefs could be reluctant to give him that deal now.

The Chiefs’ first draft pick is not expected until the second round Friday night. The Chiefs traded their first-round pick to Seattle on Tuesday for pass rusher Frank Clark, who was kicked off his team at Michigan after his own domestic violence situation.

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