Three Illini football players arrested for armed robbery


By Tatiania Perry, Assistant sports editor

Three Illinois football players were arrested this morning and are set to be formally charged tomorrow.

Darta Lee, 18, Zarrian Holcombe, 19, and Howard Watkins, 18, are in custody with preliminary charges of home invasion and armed robbery.

Champaign police Lt. Dave Shaffer told The News-Gazette on Wednesday that the players entered a dorm room in Bromley Hall wearing masks to cover their faces. However, the victim recognized one of their voices, so the trio removed their masks and tried to convince the victim it was a joke. One of the athletes then pulled out a gun, later identified as fake, and demanded cash.

Lee was booked at the county jail around 6:27 a.m. while Holcombe and Watkins were picked up from the University football offices and booked at 10:22 a.m. and 10:58 a.m., respectively.

“Darta Lee and Zarrian Holcombe were already suspended from team activities for violations of team rules, and will remain suspended. Howard Watkins has been suspended indefinitely from team activities,” head coach Lovie Smith said in a press release. “These allegations, if true, fail to live up to the standards we expect of our student-athletes. We continue to gather information and will take appropriate steps based upon what we learn.”

Both Lee and Holcombe were freshman last season for the Illini, playing in six and seven games respectively. Watkins, a member of Smith’s 2017 recruiting class, enrolled at the University this past January.

Home invasion is a Class X felony, punishments range from six to 30 years in prison.