UConn Players Did Not Fight Before Fatal Stabbing

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STORRS, Conn. (AP) -- The football coach at the University of Connecticut said Tuesday he's heard nothing to indicate members of his team were involved in a fight before player Jasper Howard was killed over the weekend.

Randy Edsall, speaking at his weekly news conference, said there may have been some "verbal jostling" but he has not been told that his players were fighting.

"When I hear fight, I usually think of people throwing fists," Edsall said. "I haven't got that information. Now young kids, could it be verbal jostling, yeah.

"I don't know of anybody that has substantiated (the fighting). Now, I think anytime you probably get 300 people together sometimes there probably is going to be some verbal jostling going on."

Police have said Howard was fatally stabbed, and another player suffered minor injuries, during a fight outside a university-sponsored dance early Sunday. Nobody has been charged with the stabbing, and UConn police said Tuesday there were no new developments in the investigation.

Hartford attorney Deron Freeman said he represents a man whose home has been searched in connection with the fight. The man, whom Freeman would not identify, and several others got into a fight "with about six" UConn football players early Sunday. Freeman said his client did not stab Howard but was present when Howard was mortally wounded.

Freeman said Monday that police told his client that he and others would be arrested, but on Tuesday Freeman said he didn't know when or if charges would be filed.

Howard's stepfather, Henry Williams, said Tuesday that the family is confident that the killer will be brought to justice. Speaking to reporters, Williams also expressed gratitude for the outpouring of love and support the family has received from the Connecticut community.

"We have a lot of pain," Williams said. "We still have hurt, but we can go on now feeling a little better because a lot of our questions have been answered. The captain of the state police told me, 'The case will be solved,' and I believe him."

Funeral services were tentatively set for Monday in Florida and Edsall said the team will attend.

Williams said Howard, a cornerback from Miami, loved UConn and considered the team his second family. Williams asked UConn's football players to take a moment to grieve, and then play the rest of the season for his son.

Howard's mother, Joanglia, did not speak, and had to leave the room during Williams' remarks when she was overcome with emotion.

She had visited players on Monday, Edsall said, and Howard's uncle, a former Miami police officer, advised them not to seek revenge.

Police on Tuesday were asking for the public's help in gathering evidence in the killing, particularly from people who may have taken photos or videos of the fight. The violence broke out just after a fire alarm went off in a student center, forcing around 300 people to evacuate from a dance.

Students held a day of silence on Tuesday, while the Black Student Association has asked everyone on campus to wear dark clothing Tuesday to indicate that the university is united in mourning.

One person has been charged in connection with the fight. 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, and police haven't identified a suspect. According to a police report, Hood was pointed out to police on the scene by Brian Parker, a sophomore wide receiver who also was stabbed but suffered only minor injuries.

Hood is being represented by Deron Freeman's brother, Justin Freeman. Justin Freeman said his client was "at the wrong place at the wrong time," and did not even know a homicide had occurred.

Edsall said at least two other players were present and tried in vain to save Howard's life.

The football team was to return to practice Tuesday to prepare for this weekend's game against Big East foe West Virginia.

Howard was a junior who had come to UConn to get away from the violence on the streets of his hometown of Miami. He was the first in his family to go to college.

The stabbing came less than 12 hours after UConn's 38-25 homecoming victory over Louisville. Howard, Connecticut's starting cornerback, was credited with 11 tackles and forced a third-quarter fumble inside the Huskies' 5-yard line with Connecticut holding a 21-13 lead.

The team will wear a sticker with Howard's initials on its helmets for the rest of the season and will carry his helmet or jersey to away games, Edsall said. West Virginia players also will be wearing helmet stickers with Howard's number 6 on them.

Edsall said he doesn't know if the two teammates who helped Howard after he was stabbed and bleeding will play this week.

"I'll honor whatever decision they want to make," he said.

There will be a moment of silence for Howard at Saturday's game and the Connecticut and West Virginia teams plan to follow that by greeting each other on the field.