Charges brought against suspects in murder of UConn football player

STORRS, Conn.; Police on Tuesday charged a man with 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 Tuesday 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 Tuesday. 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.

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.”

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.”