KNOXVILLE - University of Tennessee freshman football players Janzen Jackson, Nu'Keese Richardson and Mike Edwards were arrested near campus this morning and charged in connection with an armed robbery, multiple sources confirmed to the Times Free Press.
On Thursday evening, first-year UT coach Lane Kiffin said, "Until we know more, I'm not going to say much. We're looking into it." Several UT officials said they were "looking into" the situation and would comment at an appropriate time.
Knoxville Police Department officials confirmed that Jackson, Richardson and Edwards were being held at the Knox County Detention Center.
A fourth suspect, Marie Montmarquet, was also charged in the matter.
Police officials said Richardson and Edwards were identified at the Cumberland Avenue Pilot service station as those who committed the robbery, while Jackson was an accomplice who left the car to inform his teammates it was time to leave the scene.
Montmarquet, reportedly the driver of the vehicle, was also charged with marijuana possession, according to KPD officials. A search of her vehicle revealed marijuana paraphernalia and a CO2 gun.
UT men's athletic director Mike Hamilton issued a statement Thursday morning on the matter.
"At this time we are currently evaluating the circumstances surrounding an incident involving Mike Edwards, Janzen Jackson and Nu'Keese Richardson," Hamilton's statement said. "Any decisions or comments regarding their status will not be made until the evaluations are complete."
Jackson, from Lake Charles, La., started every game this season at free safety until missing Saturday's win over Memphis for what coaches called "administrative" reasons. He was named Southeastern Conference freshman of the week before the previous game - a win over South Carolina - and resumed practicing with the starters in preparation for Saturday's game at Ole Miss.
Jackson didn't disclose the reason for his suspension during a nearly five-minute meeting with reporters Wednesday night, but he said he and the coaches had put the incident behind them and were happy to move forward.
Richardson, from Pahokee, Fla., has returned punts and played as a wide receiver. He had his best game against Memphis, catching three passes for 54 yards and a touchdown.
Richardson missed practice Nov. 1 - one day after the team defeated South Carolina - to deal with what he and coaches called "personal issues." He returned to the team's next practice, and he and Kiffin said the situation had been resolved.
Jackson and Richardson were late additions to UT's signing class after spending approximately one year committed to LSU and Florida, respectively.
Edwards, from Cleveland, Ohio, was a special teams players and reserve cornerback pegged by coaches as a future starter.
Kiffin has consistently praised the off-field discipline he and his assistants have instilled in their program. These are the first known arrests since Kiffin took the job in December, and Kiffin recently claimed that the team's GPA was the highest it's been in at least five years.
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The following information comes from the Knoxville News-Sentinel at www.knoxnews.com:
KPD spokesman Darrell DeBusk told the Knoxville News-Sentinel the incident began at 1:43 a.m. at the Pilot station, 2218 Cumberland Ave., when officers were alerted to an armed robbery in progress.
When officers arrived, they found Cory B. Zickefoose, 20, Benjamin J. Everett, 19 and Corey M. Smith, 18, claiming to have been accosted by two men wearing black hoodies, according to the News Sentinel.
The trio told officers they were sitting in a 1998 Hyundai Elantra at the convenience store while a friend was inside the business. As they waited for their friend, a man opened the driver's door, brandished a handgun and stated, "Give me everything you have," DeBusk said.
A second man also wearing a black hoodie then opened the passenger door of the Hyundai and reiterated to the trio, "Give us everything you've got," DeBusk said.
In an interview this afternoon, Zickefoose and Smith told the News Sentinel they had no inkling beforehand that the people in the parking lot were about to attempt a robbery. Even during the incident, Zickefoose, who was driving, said the man with the weapon wasn't overly aggressive.
The victims said they showed the two men their empty wallets and said they had no money.
A third man then approached the car and told the other two men in hoodies, "We've got to go," DeBusk said.
The three men got into a 2010 Toyota Prius driven by a woman and fled the area. Zickefoose said he glanced at the Prius during the attempted heist and noted the woman seemed amused.
"She was smiling, with a big grin on her face," Zickefoose said.
Officers stopped the car on Neyland Drive near Leinard Lane after it had been seen near Gibbs Halls.
Police found Edwards, Richardson and Jackson in the car, which was driven by Marie Montmarquet, 22, DeBusk said.
A search of the Prius revealed a air-powered pellet pistol under the rear seat. Two black hoodies were seen in plain view in the back seat, DeBusk said.
The suspects were taken to the Pilot station where the three victims identified Edwards and Richardson as the two men in black hoodies who demanded their wallets.
Richardson and Edwards were being held on a $19,500 bond each. Jackson was held in lieu of $15,000 bond.