A 2-year-old son of Minnesota Vikings star running back Adrian Peterson died on Friday in a Sioux Falls, S.D., hospital, the victim of alleged abuse by a man who was dating the boy's mother, police confirmed.
Peterson's father, Nelson Peterson, confirmed Friday afternoon that the child is Adrian Peterson's. Peterson met with the media Friday, hours before the boy passed away, and said at the time he still planned to play in Sunday's game against Carolina, but declined to get into details about the case.
Peterson posted a statement on his Twitter account after news of the child's death.
"Thank you to my family, my fans and fans of other teams for their support. 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," Peterson wrote in three tweets.
Police arrested Joseph Robert Patterson, 27, who was initially charged with aggravated assault and aggravated assault on an infant. Sioux Falls police said additional charges are being considered.
Patterson has a prior domestic abuse record with a different woman and child, having pleaded guilty to simple assault in an incident last year involving an adult female and juvenile male.
Sioux Falls police said Patterson recently started a relationship with the mother of the 2-year-old victim. Patterson appeared in court Friday morning in Canton, S.D. His bond had been set at $750,000 in cash before the boy's death.
The incident occurred in Patterson's apartment, where the boy had recently moved with his mother. Patterson called 911 on Wednesday evening to report a choking at the Platinum Valley apartment, but Lt. Blaine Larsen of the Sioux Falls Police Department said it became clear at the hospital that the boy's injuries were not accidental.
Sioux Falls police said the incident was initially reported as a medical emergency.
"As officers and first responders got there, they found child was unresponsive and he was taken to the hospital," police spokesman Sam Clemens told USA TODAY Sports. "So they ended up calling police about that or letting them know. We had detectives talk to quite a few people to try to figure out what happened. What they ended up finding was that when the injuries happened there was one person with that child, and that person was Joseph Patterson."
"The injuries they found were head injuries," Clemens said. "It was obvious to medical staff that abuse had taken place and that those injuries weren't accidental."
Clemens said police believe the child's mother was "gone for a short time, and that's when we believe the injury occurred."
In the aftermath of Patterson's latest arrest, the Lincoln County prosecutor's office on Friday filed motions to order Patterson to serve two year-long sentences that had been suspended in two prior domestic cases – one for the simple assault case and another for violating an order to stay away from the victim in that case. Those motions will be heard later this month.
Court records show that Patterson has a son with another Sioux Falls woman, and also show that the mother had asked for protection orders twice, claiming he'd choked and punched her, threatened her with a knife and held her in the bedroom against her will.
The mother chose not to pursue permanent protection orders, which ultimately were dropped voluntarily in 2010 and 2011.
In 2012, Patterson was charged with simple assault against the mother, however, and was ordered to undergo family violence training and to stay away from her until completing it.
Patterson's child lives with his mother, who declined to comment Friday morning when reached by The Argus Leader.
Another woman applied for a protection order against Patterson in 2004 in Jackson County, where he attended high school.
Vikings coach Leslie Frazier, speaking before news of the child's death, said Friday that it would be up to Peterson whether he plays this week.
"We'll see how things go with him," Frazier said. "We expect him to play, but this is a very personal situation that he's dealing with."
Vikings running back Toby Gerhart said many players had reached out to Peterson.
"We consider each other family and brothers. It's clichéd and everybody says, 'We've got each other's back' when we go on a football field, but when something like this happens, it's truly a testament of being a teammate and how tight this family is," Gerhart said.
"It's a tough situation. We all reached out to him yesterday. Our thoughts and prayers are with him and his family."
Peterson, meanwhile, said football helps get him through tough times.
"I plan on playing Sunday," he said. "I will be playing Sunday, correct that. I'll be ready to roll, focused. I'm worried about getting a W on Sunday, being 1-0… You know, football is something I will always fall back on. 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. I'm able to kind of release a lot of my stress through this sport, so that's what I plan on doing."