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ETSU basketball players robbed on campus at gunpoint, $1,300 cash stolen

Rex Barber • Feb 22, 2012 at 4:00 PM

Robbers who bound and gagged two East Tennessee State University basketball players at gunpoint in a Buccaneer Ridge apartment made off with credit and debit cards, a laptop and more than $1,300 in cash, most of which belonged to a third player, according to a report.

ETSU administrators were urging caution and safety on campus following the armed robbery. Security patrols on campus have increased at night, said university spokesman Joe Smith.

“We just want the campus to be especially alert at this time,” Smith said.

According to the ETSU Public Safety report on the assault and robbery, students John Ward and Adam Sollazzo told campus police they were in Buccaneer Ridge, Building O, Apt. 155, around 9:50 p.m. Tuesday when three black men entered the apartment brandishing two pistols.

Ward and Sollazzo were bound by their feet and hands, and they were gagged, according to the report.

The three robbers took property from Ward, Sollazzo and Sheldon Cooley, who is another ETSU basketball player.

Cooley apparently lived in Apt. 155 but was not present at the time of the robbery, according to the report.

Property taken from Ward included two debit cards, a credit card, a cell phone, a laptop and $150 in change.

Sollazzo only reported his cell phone stolen. He lived in another Buccaneer Ridge apartment.

Cooley reported two debit cards and $1,300 cash stolen.

Police said in the report the robbers entered the apartment by using Cooley’s ETSU ID card, which was in the mailbox outside the apartment. Cooley said he put the card there so his roommate would have access to the apartment due to locking himself out.

After the robbers left, Sollazzo and Ward untied themselves and hit panic buttons in the apartment. They were not injured.

Johnson City police used a dog to track the robbers through the woods on the north side of the building. The track was lost in the parking lot near Building G, apparently because the robbers got in a car, according to the report.

Public safety lifted three finger prints from the balcony door of the apartment. The rope and tape used to bind Ward and Sollazzo were collected as evidence.

Smith said the university takes reports of any kind of crime seriously and moved aggressively to alert the campus community of the robbery via emails and text messages around 11 p.m. Tuesday.

ETSU basketball coach Murry Bartow said the victims were doing good considering they had just been robbed at gunpoint. He said unless something changed his mind Wednesday, the students would play in Thursday’s game.

“Well, obviously you know anytime something like this happens on your campus you’re concerned, whether it’s a student athlete or not,” he said.

Asked about the circumstances of the case, Bartow had no comment.

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