An East Tennessee State University basketball player was charged Thursday with filing a false report about an armed robbery reported on campus Tuesday night, according to the university.
ETSU student Sheldon Cooley falsely reported he had $1,300 stolen in the robbery where his fellow basketball players Adam Sollazzo and J.C. Ward told police they were bound and gagged at gunpoint just before 10 p.m. Tuesday in a Buccaneer Ridge apartment, according to a school news release. The apartment is on campus.
Ward, who lived in the apartment, was robbed of a computer, some cash and debit and credit cards.
Sollazzo only reported his cell phone stolen. He lived in another Buccaneer Ridge apartment.
Cooley, who lived in the apartment but was not there during the robbery, reported $1,300 cash stolen.
According to the school, an investigation by ETSU Public Safety revealed Cooley had not been in possession of that money and that his initial report of the $1,300 being stolen from him was false.
An ETSU public safety report on what is being called an especially aggravated robbery indicated three black men between the ages of 18 and 21 entered the apartment by using Cooley’s ETSU ID card, which also acts as a key. This key card had been left by Cooley in the mailbox outside the apartment. Cooley told police it was left there so his roommate would have access to the apartment due to locking himself out.
After the robbery, Ward and Sollazzo hit panic buttons and public safety arrived at the apartment.
A Johnson City police dog was used to track the robbers but lost their scent in the parking lot.
ETSU Athletic Director Dave Mullins said in a news conference Thursday evening that the school was determined to help police “get to the bottom of the situation” regarding the robbery.
Cooley has been suspended from the team indefinitely.
“ETSU athletics takes very seriously the responsibility of all our student-athletes to be quality representatives of our institution,” Mullins said.
Ward and another player’s Atlantic Sun Conference championship rings were reported stolen from that same apartment this past fall.
The investigation into Tuesday's armed robbery was continuing.
Sollazzo played in Thursday’s game. Ward is out for the season with an injury but was on the bench.
Cooley was being held in the Washington County Detention Center on $5,000 bond.
He was scheduled to appear in Sessions Court Friday.
Press sports writer Joe Avento contributed to this report