Published January 14, 2015
A Bloomfield man will be arrested in the stabbing death of a University of Connecticut football player, his lawyer said Monday night, as police continued to sort out what happened during a fight outside a school-sponsored dance over the weekend.
Attorney Deron Freeman declined to identify his client, but says the man and several others got into a fight "with about six" UConn football players early Sunday. Freeman says his client did not stab Jasper Howard, but was present when Howard was mortally wounded.
Freeman said police searched his client's home in Bloomfield and removed some items. Freeman said police told him that his client and others will be arrested.
"(Police) have indicated to me that they expect to get a warrant for his arrest," he said. "I'm not sure if I would say that he was in the wrong place at the wrong time, but I could say that he was not involved in the actual stabbing of Mr. Howard."
It would be the second arrest connected to the stabbing, which occurred hours after Howard starred in UConn's homecoming victory over Louisville.
Johnny Hood, 21, of Hartford, was arraigned Monday on charges of interfering with an officer and breach of peace, but he has not been charged in Howard's death.
Authorities said Hood gave a false name when he was questioned. His bond initially was set at $100,000, but that was reduced Monday to $10,000.
Hood's attorney, Justin Freeman, said at the arraignment that his client is a full-time dental assistant and a part-time student at Capitol Community College, who was "at the wrong place at the wrong time," and did not even know a homicide had occurred.
Deron Freeman, who is Justin Freeman's brother, declined to say whether his client knows Hood, but he said there were at least a half-dozen UConn football players with Howard at the time of the stabbing.
Hood was pointed out to police at the scene by another UConn player, 19-year-old Brian Parker of Sarasota, Fla., who also was stabbed but sustained minor injuries. The sophomore wide receiver, who is academically ineligible to play this season, was treated and released from a local hospital.
Coach Randy Edsall said two other players tried in vain to save Howard's life.
"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 Monday that Howard died from a single stab wound to the abdomen.
Howard, a junior and starting cornerback, came to the school to get away from the violence on the streets of his hometown of Miami. He was the first person in his family to go to college.
UConn basketball player Kalana Greene said Monday night that Howard was a good person who wanted to help lift his family out of poverty and away from crime.
"He's from Little Haiti in Miami, and he talked about doing everything for his mom and his two little sisters, doing something to make it out," Greene said. "He was talking about how, 'I've got to make it out to help my family out. I don't want my family to live the life that I lived. I don't want my kids to live the life that I lived. I want to make it good for them."'
Center Tina Charles said Howard — nicknamed Jazz — loved to play pickup basketball with the UConn women's team.
"He always made the games fun," she said. "That smile would get probably any girl, that smile that he had."
Howard's death was especially tragic, because he was about to become a father, Edsall said. Police declined to provide any additional information about the expectant mother, whom Edsall identified as Howard's girlfriend.
Police interviewed dozens of witnesses but had made no other arrests late Monday.
"We're pursuing active investigative leads," UConn police Maj. Ronal Blicher said.
Blicher said Howard was mortally wounded during a fight between two groups that included students and non-students. The fight broke out just after a fire alarm went off in a student center, forcing around 300 people to evacuate from a party and dance sponsored by the school's West Indian Awareness Organization.
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.
Students gathered for two vigils Monday night. Teammates and friends placed candles and flowers at the spot where Howard was killed, along with a poster that included the words "Live 365" next to pictures of Howard playing football and having fun.
Outside the team's football complex, dozens of athletes and other students joined hands as punter Desi Cullen, a team captain led them in prayer.
"Value the breath you breathe," he told the crowd. "Value every day you wake up."
Cullen said it had been a tough day for players, as they met with Howard's parents, who had flown up from Florida.
Earlier Monday, the campus co-op store sold out of T-shirts styled like jerseys with Howard's No. 6.
The team will wear a sticker with Howard's initials on its helmets for the rest of the season and will carry Howard's helmet or jersey to away games, Edsall said.
The coach 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. "I'll honor whatever decision they want to make," he said.
West Virginia coach Bill Stewart said plans are in the works to honor Howard at the game in Morgantown, W.Va. He said he expected the game would be very emotional for both teams.
"The youngsters from our Miami area took it very, very, very hard," he said. "Our guys were quite shaken, as they should be and they really, really liked that young man immensely."
Edsall said his team will resume practicing on 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.