It’s supposed to be such an open and shut case. We learn that a suspect in the murder of a UConn football player is a black kid from Hartford who isn’t a student and we immediately assume the worst: He must be a gangbanging drug dealer and it was only a matter of time before he killed an innocent, upstanding individual.
Just as quick, we go into Law & Order mode in an attempt to determine John W. Lomax’s motive. He must have been so jealous of all the attention Jasper Howard and his teammates were receiving following their homecoming victory that he couldn’t take it anymore and just snapped. He must be a pathetic loner. Women probably loathe him.
Then we celebrate the victim – as we should. Anyone who can escape Howard’s neighborhood in Miami and be track to graduate from college deserves to be praised. Do you realize that more than half of that city’s students never finish high school? By those standards, Jazz had already made it. He was going to break free from the vicious cycle of poverty. That’s how we should remember Howard. A well-liked, good-looking football player with such a bright future who was killed on Homecoming Day, of all days.
What we shouldn’t do is try to make him the hero in the altercation that cost him his life. As Hartford Courant columnist Jeff Jacobs wrote earlier this week, there is no such thing in situations like these. And as the cliché goes, there are three sides to every story.
In this case, we have the accused murderer, a thug who comes from the lock your doors, roll up your windows and drive fast streets our parents warn us about as children. Then we have Jazz, the kid who was on top of the world following one of his best games as a Husky. The innocent athlete who was just trying to break up a fight, as some originally claimed
And of course, we have the 21 page police report, which shouldn’t necessarily be taken as the whole truth, but does give us a little bit more insight into what actually occurred the night Howard was killed. For instance, there are witnesses who say the whole ordeal began with a group of Howard’s teammates disrespecting a female. That led to words being exchanged between the football players and Lomax.
Words became fists. Lomax and another suspect, Johnny Hood, claim the football players swung first. After the police broke the fight up and arrested Hood, the report suggests that Lomax and another man went back to their car and armed themselves.
When the two groups met up again, a melee ensued. That’s when eyewitnesses say Howard wasn’t actually playing the role of peacemaker. At least two people, including one his teammates, say they saw Howard throwing punches at Lomax and Lomax swinging back with his knife. Soon after, Howard screamed, “They got me! They got me!” and fell to the ground.
A single stab wound to the abdomen ended Howard’s life.
His tragic death is the end-result of a silly fight over comments made to a woman. To be clear, I still believe Howard deserves to be remembered in an overwhelmingly positive light and that Lomax, if convicted, deserves to spend the rest of his life rotting away in prison like all murderers.
But that doesn’t mean there still aren’t plenty of questions that need to be answered in this story. This didn’t happen on the streets of Miami or Hartford. It happened on a college campus in the middle of nowhere, where underage drinking and plagiarism is the major concern, not murder.
Lomax and his friends had to know that. Everyone who heads to Storrs for a weekend of partying knows that. The most trouble you should ever run into at UConn is with an RA who won’t allow you into the dorms because you’re not a registered guest.
So what makes two guys feel so threatened that they need to run to their car to obtain their just-in-case weapons?
And why were the football players still around looking for a fight?