Three University of Illinois football players were arrested and indefinitely suspended from the team this week after they allegedly concocted a “stupid plan” to rob a man living in one of the college’s residence halls.
The trio, Darta Lee, 18, Zarrian Holcombe, 19, and Howard Watkins, 18, apparently wore masks during the alleged break-in early Wednesday morning. When one of the players spoke, though, police told the News-Gazette the the alleged victim recognized the voice. At that point, Champaign police Lt. Dave Shaffer said the suspect “pulled his mask off and tried to make light of the situation,” while “one of them produced what we now know to be fake firearm and demanded cash.”
According to the Associated Press, Holcombe is believed to have been the player holding what turned out to be a BB gun. Lee, meanwhile, rifled through the man’s dresser, while Watkins robbed his wallet before the trio left with an undisclosed amount of money.
The man would later contact police, who were quickly led to Lee. Shortly thereafter, the other two suspects were apprehended and all were booked into county jail.
On Thursday, the players were charged with felony residential burglary and aggravated robbery, according to the AP. But first, Illini Coach Lovie Smith announced all three players had been indefinitely suspended from the team Wednesday afternoon.
“These allegations, if true, fail to live up to the standards we expect of our student-athletes,” he said in a statement via IlliniInquirer.com’s Jeremy Werner. “We continue to gather information and will take appropriate steps based upon what we learn.”
Lee, who will be a sophomore next year, started two games as a guard and played in a total of six in the 2016 season. Holcombe, who will also be a sophomore next season, played in seven games in 2016, mostly on special teams. Watkins, meanwhile, is a Class of 2017 recruit who enrolled in the university in January and participated in spring practices with the team.