STORRS, Conn. — Police today charged a man with the murder in the stabbing death of a University of Connecticut football player outside a school-sanctioned dance, but his defense attorney says he was just trying to break up a fight.
Two others also were charged in the fight that led to the death of 20-year-old Jasper Howard, of Miami.
John William Lomax III, 21, of Bloomfield, was arrested this morning and charged with murder, police said. His bond was set at $2 million.
Police would not discuss evidence or a motive during a news conference today. More than 40 investigators conducted more than 200 interviews and “have not stopped working,” UConn police chief Robert Hudd said.
Police charged Hakim Muhammad, 20, of Bloomfield, with conspiracy to commit assault and Jamal Todd, 21, of Hartford, with a felony charge of falsely reporting an incident and a misdemeanor charge of reckless endangerment. Police say he pulled the fire alarm that emptied the dance early Oct. 18, triggering the fight.
Lomax, who is not a UConn student and lives 30 miles from campus, wasn’t present when the argument started and doesn’t know what it was about, but tried to break up the fight, said his attorney, Deron Freeman.
“He was just partying,” Freeman said. “Often people from out of town go to the UConn campus to party.”
Lomax, a Bloomfield High School graduate who works in information technology, goes by the nickname “Pooda.” He last logged into his MySpace page in March, when he listed his occupation as “taking care of my daughter.”
On his Facebook page, Lomax’s friends include Muhammad and 21-year-old Johnny Hood of Hartford, who was arrested last week and faces charges of breach of peace and interfering with police.
Freeman said he was first told that Lomax would be charged in connection with the fight, but not with murder.
“I’m surprised,” Freeman said. “I’m curious to find out what evidence they had to secure an arrest warrant for murder. … From all the evidence I’ve heard, he was not involved in the stabbing.”
UConn president Michael Hogan said in a message to students and staff: “Nothing can replace the void in our hearts left by his death. Yet, I know that many of you will feel reassured by today’s news.”
Howard, a starting cornerback whose nickname was Jazz, was stabbed outside a university-sanctioned dance, hours after helping his team to a homecoming game win over Louisville.
The entire UConn team attended his funeral Monday in Miami, where Howard was eulogized by coach Randy Edsall as “the ultimate son, he was the ultimate brother. He was the ultimate teammate. He was the ultimate friend. They didn’t come any better than Jazz.”
UConn football players said they were happy that an arrest was made, but that it was of little comfort.
“It is a little closure, but the reality is my teammate’s still not here with us,” said running back Jordan Todman.
Several players said today they had never heard of Lomax, and don’t know how Lomax and Howard crossed paths.
“I know that his mother is very excited that someone is being charged with this crime. That’s all I’ve been really thinking about, just how his family is doing,” said defensive tackle Kendall Reyes.
Greg Lloyd, a junior linebacker, said they are relieved that someone is being held accountable for Howard’s death.
“I wish only that it didn’t happen at all so at least I can have my teammate back,” he said. “It’s unreal grief for the family, unreal grief for his friends — it’s just a shame.”
An athletics department spokesman said Edsall did not plan to make any public statements on the arrests today.