Grizzlies cornerback Wilson suspended indefinitely from team

Updated: June 15, 2007, 8:24 PM ET
Associated Press

MISSOULA, Mont. -- The University of Montana has indefinitely suspended Jimmy Wilson, a cornerback charged with murder earlier this week, from the football team, head coach Bobby Hauck said Friday.

Wilson, 20, is charged in the June 2 shooting death of 29-year-old Kevin Smoot in Lancaster, Calif., about 75 miles northeast of Los Angeles. He surrendered to California authorities Tuesday, stunning current and former UM players and the Griz community.

School officials had remained largely silent on the arrest, but made several statements Friday afternoon in announcing Wilson's suspension.

"We are shocked at the developments in the Los Angeles area, and we are worried and concerned about Jimmy Wilson. ... Sometimes, people make poor decisions. This is a tragedy for Jimmy and his extended family," Hauck said.

Athletic director Jim O'Day called the developments "tragic and shocking" and said the university is closely monitoring the situation.

"This matter is currently in the hands of the California court system, and we have no further comment on the situation at this time," said Executive Vice President Jim Foley.

Several current teammates, who declined to be identified after they were told by UM officials not to speak with the media, said they had just seen Wilson in Missoula last week and nothing appeared out of the ordinary.

"He's always been a fierce competitor and a great teammate," former UM offensive lineman and teammate Chris Orwig said. "He and I came from different places, but when it came to working hard in the workout room and being a leader for his position group, we were alike like that. But man, that's unfortunate."

Smoot was identified as the boyfriend of Wilson's aunt, and had been fighting with Wilson's aunt the night of the shooting, said Los Angeles County sheriff's Sgt. Mitch Loman.

Investigators said Wilson shot Smoot and fled the scene. No weapon has been recovered, Loman said.

"He inserted himself into a situation, which should have been handled by the police," Loman said. "It's just a tragic situation."

Wilson's bail was doubled Thursday in Los Angeles Superior Court to $2 million, on the advice of investigators, and his arraignment postponed until June 21.

Wilson, whose given name is James Leon Wilson, came to the University of Montana out of high school in San Diego. He was an All-America candidate and second-team Big Sky Conference defensive back for the Griz last year, starting all 14 games, and will be a senior this fall.

Smoot's mother, Leslie, said her son had two young children with his 27-year-old girlfriend.

Wilson's arrest was the latest in a string of bad news for Montana college football.

On May 18, Montana State football coach Mike Kramer was fired after another of his former players was arrested. Over the past year, five former MSU players and one current MSU player have been arrested on criminal charges, including a murder charge.

Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press