OLATHE, Kan. – The Kansas City Chiefs have effectively suspended Tyreek Hill from all team-related activities while they investigate an audio recording that aired on a local TV station in which the star wide receiver's fiance accused him of abusing their 3-year-old son.
The recording surfaced one day after prosecutors said they believed abuse had occurred in Hill's home last month but that they could not press charges because it was unclear who committed the crime.
Chiefs general manager Brett Veach says Hill would no longer be allowed to work out with the team. The Chiefs are in the midst of voluntary offseason workouts.
A television station aired audio Thursday it says shows Hill telling his fiancee about punching and using a belt to discipline their son one day after prosecutors reluctantly declined to file charges in a domestic incident.
Police were called to Hill's home twice last month and investigators determined the 3-year-old child had been injured. On Wednesday, Johnson County District Attorney Steve Howe said charges would not be filed, but acknowledged he was "deeply troubled" by the situation and said "we believe a crime has occurred." He said there was not enough evidence to conclusively establish who committed it.
Hill released a statement through his attorney earlier Thursday in which he said his "son's health and happiness is my number one priority." Hill also said that his focus is on "working hard to be the best person for my family and our community that I can be, and the best player to help our team win."
Less than eight hours later, KCTV in Kansas City aired part of an 11-minute audio file in which Hill's fiancee, Crystal Espinal, tells Hill their son had said, "Daddy did it."
Hill denies any role in what happened to the child's arm, adding: "He says Daddy does a lot of things."
She also tells Hill their son is "terrified of you."
Hill replies, "You need to be terrified of me, too, bitch."
Later in the conversation, Espinal asks Hill, "What do you do when the child is bad? You make him open up his arms and you punch him in the chest."
KCTV said the audio was sent to the station without disclosing from whom. The station said it had shared the audio with Howe's office, which did not return a message left late Thursday. Howe has acknowledged that the case could be reopened if there was new evidence.
Neither the Chiefs nor an attorney for Hill responded to a request for comment.
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 she was pregnant and they were attending Oklahoma State.
Chiefs coach Andy Reid and general manager Brett Veach sidestepped questions about Hill's legal situation last week, even as the wide receiver reported for the start of offseason workouts.
Howe said the NFL attempted to contact the district attorney's office to gather information for its own investigation. The league could still punish Hill even if he is not charged with a crime.
Hill's attorney, Trey Pettlon, has said that the wide receiver has cooperated with law enforcement throughout the investigation. Pettlon also said that Hill waived his Fifth Amendment rights, answered questions from law enforcement and the Department of Children and Families, and that he would continue to cooperate with authorities as they provide a safe environment for the child.
Howe would not say who has custody of the child because of an ongoing DCF investigation.
"We're talking about a minor, a child, and the system and DCF and in child investigations, we have to be very cognizant about protecting the rights of the child," Howe said. "We have to respect the wishes of the individuals involved in the case."
Hill is entering the final year of his rookie contract, and the Chiefs have little depth at wide receiver. That means it is possible the Chiefs could target a pass-catcher when they make one of their three picks Friday night – they traded their first-round pick to Seattle earlier this week as part of a package to acquire pass rusher Frank Clark, who has his own history of domestic violence.
It's unclear whether the new audio of Hill will change the Chiefs' approach, though they did set a precedent late last year when it comes to domestic violence cases. That's when they released star running back Kareem Hunt following a video that showed him pushing and kicking a woman in a hotel hallway.