James Neveau

Three U of I Football Players Arrested in Connection With Alleged Robbery

Three football players at the University of Illinois have been arrested and are expected to be charged in connection with an alleged robbery at a school residence hall on Wednesday morning.

The Champaign County Sheriff’s Office website indicates that the players are in custody on preliminary charges of home invasion and armed robbery. Darta L. Lee, 18, Zarrian J. Holcombe, 19, and Howard E. Watkins, 18, were the three players arrested in connection with the incident, which took place early on Wednesday morning.

Calling the incident part of a “stupid plan,” Champaign police Lt. Dave Shaffer detailed the alleged robbery in a press conference on Wednesday in the Champaign News-Gazette:

“Three individuals entered an apartment masked and the victim recognized one of them by voice. He pulled his mask off and tried to make light of the situation. One of them produced what we now know to be (a) fake firearm and demanded cash.”

According to police, the alleged assailants left with an undisclosed amount of money.

The three players have an arraignment hearing scheduled for 1:30 p.m. on Thursday afternoon in Champaign County Court.

“These allegations, if true, fail to live up to the standards we expect of our student athletes,” Illinois head coach Lovie Smith said in a statement. “We continue to gather information and will take appropriate steps based upon what we learn.”

Holcombe and Lee were already serving a suspension for violating team rules, according to reports, and they will remain suspended until completion of an investigation into the incident. Watkins has also been suspended indefinitely from the team in connection with the incident. 

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