Armani Williams, a junior journalism major from Chicago, Ill., and a guard on the men’s basketball team, was arrested and charged with robbery after an incident at Walmart on the morning of Nov. 30, according to police.
Williams has been suspended indefinitely from all team activities, including games, practices and workouts. In addition, senior forward Eric Kibi, who was not arrested or charged with a crime, also has been suspended from the team, said men’s head coach Joe Golding.
According to an Abilene Police Department arrest report, Williams that morning attempted to steal a Playstation 3 from the Walmart on East Overland Trail northeast of campus. A manager chased Williams out of the store and while in pursuit of Williams, injured his knee on an automatic door, according to the police report.
Williams said he left Walmart that morning and went to a gas station, where he was picked up by Kibi, junior journalism major from Albuquerque, N.M., and later was arrested by Abilene police.
“It was just stupid of me to even get myself in that situation,” Williams said. “Every day I have to wake up and feel that.”
For now, Williams faces significant punishment because he has been charged with robbery, which is a second-degree felony punishable by 2-20 years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000. Under Texas law, a person commits robbery if – during a theft – he “intentionally, knowingly or recklessly causes bodily injury to another.”
However, Williams and director of athletics Jared Mosley hope the charges will be reduced to theft or even dropped. Theft of a item valued between $50-$500, which would include a Playstation 3, is a Class B misdemeanor, which is punishable by up to 180 days in jail and a fine of not more than $2000.
“We are going to let the process take its course,” Mosley said.
In an official statement, Golding said he and others in the Department of Athletics learned of the incident that afternoon.
“What I want our players, our students and our fans to know is that while we are certainly disappointed in the actions of these two players, we remain committed to educating and ensuring the best possible experience for the student athletes in our program,” Golding said in his statement.
The incident comes as first-year coach Golding works to rebuild the basketball team, which went 9-17 last year. Both athletes are new to the program this year under Golding. At the time of their suspension, Williams led the team in three-point field goals while Kibi led the Wildcats in rebounds. Neither played Saturday against Southwestern Adventist.
“It’s an extremely difficult situation whether you are trying to rebuild a program or not,” Mosley said. “Regardless of the outcome, hopefully this can be a teachable moment not only for these two athletes involved but for everyone on the team.”
Golding echoed Mosley’s sentiments.
“We are going to be OK,” Golding said. “Some guys are going to have to step up, but we are going to be fine.”
Both players have expressed their deep regret for the incident and are thankful for the support they have received.
“I am glad we are at Abilene Christian,” Kibi said. “This is somewhere where people are going to be pulling for us and are going to be behind us and want to help us. They understand we made a mistake, but they are here for us.”
Dr. Jean-Noel Thompson, vice president and dean for student life, said he couldn’t comment on either student’s standing with the university, but he did say that he has met with each student multiple times.
“We are going to be consistent with similar situations in the way we handle this,” Thompson said. “We are taking this matter very seriously.”
Under the 2011-12 Student Handbook, felonies are Category Three violations, and misdemeanors are Category Two violations.
Thompson praised the coaches and the athletic department for how the incident and suspensions have been handled.
The men’s basketball team will play its second game without Williams and Kibi this Saturday against Cameron University.