STORRS, Conn. — One teammate performed first aid while another comforted a University of Connecticut football player who was fatally stabbed during a fight outside a school-sanctioned dance over the weekend, their coach said today.
Coach Randy Edsall wouldn’t identify the teammates or say how many players witnessed the fight that led to the death of 20-year-old Jasper Howard, a native of Miami.
“One had Jasper in his arms and the other was pressuring where the wound went in and had blood on his hands,” Edsall said. “And those two young men are pretty deeply affected right now.”
The state’s medical examiner’s office said today that Howard died from a single stab wound to the abdomen. The death was ruled a homicide.
Police interviewed dozens of witnesses today but said there were no suspects and no arrests, although around 300 people were in the area when a fire alarm sounded and students evacuated the building.
“We’re pursuing active investigative leads,” UConn police Maj. Ronal Blicher said. “The investigation will continue into this week.”
A second student was also stabbed and was treated and released from a local hospital. UConn police would not identify the student.
Blicher said Howard was wounded during a fight between two groups that included students and non-students. The altercation broke out just after a fire alarm went off in a student center, forcing around 300 people to evacuate from the party and dance sponsored by the school’s West Indian Awareness Organization.
Blicher said it was the first homicide at the university in the more than 30 years he has been associated with the school.
The violence came less than 12 hours after UConn’s 38-25 homecoming victory over Louisville. Edsall identified Howard’s body at St. Francis Hospital and Medical Center in Hartford Sunday morning.
He said he doesn’t know if the two teammates who helped Howard will play when the Huskies visit Big East foe West Virginia on Saturday. The team will wear a sticker with Howard’s initials on their helmets for the rest of the season and will carry Howard’s helmet or jersey to away games, Edsall said.
“I’ve talked to both of them each day,” he said. “I’ve got to see where they’re at today, see where they’re at tomorrow and I will tell them if they don’t feel they are mentally ready to play, that’s their decision, and I’ll honor whatever decision they want to make. “
Howard, a junior and the team’s starting cornerback, came to the school to get away from the violence on the streets of his hometown. He was the first person in his family to go to college.
Blicher said that officials don’t believe anyone else is in danger and that the stabbing did not appear premeditated.
“The university does not have an individual walking around just stabbing people,” Blicher said.
Some students today said they never considered their campus unsafe before. Some, like freshman Alexander Wegh of Terryville, stayed indoors on Sunday as police gathered evidence.
“I kind of just stayed inside (Sunday) because they really didn’t tell us what was going on,” he said. “I didn’t come here thinking about safety, because its not like when you pick your school you’re like, ‘Oh, its going to be really safe or not.’ You assume it’s going to be safe.”
Howard’s death was especially tragic, because he was about to become a father, Edsall said. Neither police nor the university provided any additional information about the expectant mother, whom Edsall identified as Howard’s girlfriend.
The coach gathered his team at its training facility at 6 a.m. to deliver the news.
Howard and the other student who was stabbed were taken to Windham Community Memorial Hospital, where the surviving student was treated and released. Howard was later airlifted to St. Francis, where he died.
Howard had a career-high 11 tackles Saturday and made perhaps the game’s biggest play, forcing a fumble as Louisville was about to score with UConn up 21-13 in the third quarter.
“I felt my hand go on the ball and I felt that I had a chance to get it out,” he said after the game. “I just stripped it out. It was a big play. We needed it.”
Joanglia Howard said she got news of her son’s death about 4 a.m. Sunday, and described him as a “good kid” who never got into trouble.
“All I wanted him to do was go to school and get an education, and he was doing what I asked him to do,” she told WSVN-TV in Miami.
Edsall planned to meet Howard’s parents at a Connecticut airport later today. He also had two teenage sisters.
Edsall said the team will not practice until Tuesday.
“It’ll be good for us to be getting back on the practice field tomorrow and getting a little bit of what in this tragic situation, back to a little bit of normalcy with what we have to do,” he said.