News Local/State

Three Illini Football Players Charged With Robbery, Home Invasion

Lovie Smith at the podium.

Illini football coach Lovie Smith has suspended three players indefinitely after they were arrested Wednesday on charges of home invasion and armed robbery. Vashoune Russell/for Illinois Public Media

Police arrested University of Illinois football players Darta Lee, Zarrian Holcombe, and Howard Watkins on charges of armed robbery and home invasion Wednesday morning. They are scheduled to be arraigned on Thursday.

Champaign police Lt. Dave Shaffer told the News-Gazette that the three men allegedly robbed a resident of Bromley Hall on the University of Illinois Urbana campus shortly after 3:00am Wednesday.

Shaffer said that the victim recognized the voice of one of the football players, who were wearing masks. The victim gave police enough information to point them toward Lee, who was arrested just before 6:30am.  Police then arrested Holcombe and Watkins shortly before 11:00am.

Illini head football coach Lovie Smith released the following statement on Wednesday:

“Three members of the football program were involved in an incident early this morning. 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.
“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.”

Home invasion is a Class X felony, which carries a prison sentence of 6 to 30 years upon conviction.