A 2-year-old son of Vikings running back Adrian Peterson died Friday in Sioux Falls, S.D., from injuries sustained in an assault that police said was committed by the boyfriend of the child’s mother.
The child was taken to a Sioux Falls hospital Wednesday night, and Peterson spent Thursday in Sioux Falls. Police said the child’s name won’t be released until next week, but they confirmed that the Vikings star is the boy’s father.
Peterson returned to practice Friday and addressed reporters briefly before learning that his son had died. He asked for privacy and said he didn’t want to answer questions about the tragedy.
“I really appreciate all the support that I’ve been receiving from fans, the Vikings organization,” Peterson said. “This is a private matter, and I would ask you all to please just respect my privacy and not ask at all about the situation at hand.”
The man Sioux Falls police say attacked the child is Joseph Patterson, 27. He was charged Friday with aggravated assault and aggravated battery of an infant. His bond was set at $750,000.
Patterson apparently was in Lincoln County State Court on Friday when the boy died at 11:43 a.m. Court officials were unaware during the proceeding that the child had died as a result of the assault.
State’s attorney Tom Wollman said additional charges would be filed next week to reflect that the case now involves a homicide.
Peterson rarely talks about his personal life in media interviews, but he has made public appearances with two of his children. He recently tweeted about his daughter, Adeja, who is 8. At training camp, Peterson’s fiancée brought his son Adrian Jr., who is also 2, to visit his father.
The child who died did not carry Peterson’s name.
Following the news of his son’s death, Peterson sent out a series of tweets.
“Thank you to my family, my fans and fans of other teams for their support,” he wrote. “The NFL is a fraternity of brothers and I am thankful for the tweets, phone calls and text messages from my fellow players. God Bless everyone and thank u so much.”
According to reports, the suspect in the case called authorities to the apartment about 5:45 p.m. Wednesday on a medical call about the toddler, saying the child was choking.
Wollman said that when the child was examined, he was found to have head injuries consistent with child abuse.
“It’s just an absolute tragedy. We’re in the business of dealing with human tragedy, but any time it involves the death of a child, it just is that much harder for everyone involved to deal with,” Wollman said.
Patterson is being held at the Minnehaha County jail. He has been in trouble before for violent behavior toward others.
Wollman filed two motions Friday morning asking a judge to revoke suspended sentences that Patterson had received on two misdemeanor charges. Neither of the earlier sentences involved the mother of the child who died, Wollman said.
Patterson was convicted of simple domestic assault last summer and also of violating a domestic abuse bond last year, which involved a no-contact order issued in connection with the domestic violence. Those cases involved another woman with whom Patterson has a child.
Peterson wants to play
Before learning of his son’s death, Peterson said that he planned to play Sunday against the Carolina Panthers at Mall of America Field.
“Football is something I will always fall back on,” he said. “It gets me through tough times. Just being around the guys in here, that’s what I need in my life, guys supporting me and just being able to go out and play this game I love.
“Things that I go through, I’ve said a thousand times, it helps me play this game to a different level,” Peterson said. “I’m able to kind of release a lot of my stress through this sport, so that’s what I plan on doing.”
Peterson has dealt with tragedy among family members from an early age. At age 7, he witnessed the death of his older brother, who was struck and killed by a drunken driver while riding his bike.
When Peterson was a teenager, his father was sentenced to 10 years in prison for laundering drug money. And Peterson’s stepbrother was shot and killed in Houston the night before Peterson worked out at the NFL Combine the year he was drafted by the Vikings.
“One thing I always bounce back to is that the good Lord never gives you more than you can bear, than you can handle,” Peterson said Friday. “So I’m built tough.”
His coaches and teammates tried to provide support Friday.
Vikings coach Leslie Frazier said Peterson had a “difficult day,” and he left open the possibility that the NFL’s reigning Most Valuable Player won’t play Sunday.
“He has our prayers and support from this football team, from this organization, as he’s dealing with a personal matter,” Frazier said. “We’ll see how things go with him. We expect him to play, but this is a very personal situation that he’s dealing with. We’ll talk to him in the next 24 hours.”
Fellow running back Toby Gerhart said Peterson’s teammates have reached out to him in different ways.
“We consider each other family and brothers,” Gerhart said. “When something like this happens, it’s truly a testament of being a teammate and how tight this family is. It’s a tough situation.
“We’re there for him with whatever he needs and try and help his morale and be there for him,” Gerhart said.