A college football player and a student at a prestigious Southern university are under investigation in a string of up to 10 robberies this summer.
The two are in jail, scheduled to be arraigned on charges of committing three robberies Tuesday morning--two in Escondido and one of a cabbie in Vista. The pair were arrested after a freeway chase early that morning that ended with the death of a third young man.
Two years ago, Hubert Phillips was a star senior fullback with the Southwest High Raiders in south San Diego, averaging 116.5 yards a game. A Times second team all-county pick, he was redshirted the next year with the University of New Mexico Lobos.
The 19-year-old is being held in lieu of $200,000 bail in County Jail on suspicion of three counts of armed robbery.
“I can’t really explain it,” said his father, Charlie Phillips. “He was raised the proper way. He knew you don’t get anything unless you work for it.”
Also arrested after the car chase, which began in Vista, was 18-year-old Jonathan Arrington, who last year attended prestigious Tuskegee University in Tuskegee, Ala.
The third male, 17-year-old Cahill Muhammad, was found dead in the back seat of the car. The county medical examiner’s office said Wednesday that Muhammad died of gunshot wounds in the head, but it had not yet determined if they were self-inflicted.
On Tuesday, investigators said the death was apparently a suicide. Muhammad lived on Saturn Boulevard, not far from Southwest High School, according to the medical examiner’s office.
Joseph Macagno, who was having coffee at his home a few doors from the school, said he heard four to six gunshots just before a car crashed into a fireplug on the campus shortly after 4 a.m. He did not see who fired them, he said.
Arrington, who turns 19 on Friday, is also being held on suspicion of auto theft and evading police and is scheduled to be arraigned at 1:30 p.m. today in Vista Municipal Court. However, jail officials say that appearance will have to wait because Arrington must also appear at 12:30 p.m. at South Bay Superior Court in Chula Vista. He is being held on $50,500 bond.
Phillips’ arraignment is scheduled for Friday.
Anne Maria, an assistant sports information director at the University of New Mexico, confirmed that Phillips was on the football team there last year. But he is not on this year’s roster, she said, adding that she did not know why.
Tuskegee University officials confirmed that Arrington was a student there last year, but they could not confirm that he was enrolled there for classes this fall.
A spokeswoman at Southwestern College in Chula Vista said Arrington had been taking summer classes there. Court records indicate he is a sophomore at Tuskegee.
This is not the first time this summer that Phillips and Arrington have gotten into trouble with the law. They and another man were charged Aug. 7 with grand theft and robbery in connection with a July 8 incident, Superior Court records show. Both pleaded not guilty.
Escondido police say the two are suspected of robbing two businesses in that city Tuesday just before the cabbie was robbed.
After the robberies, sheriff’s deputies and California Highway Patrol officers chased a stolen white Honda 50 miles, from Vista to south San Diego, after deputies matched its license plate to a partial number given by the cabbie.
The chase ended when the car plowed into the fireplug. Two men fled on foot, and deputies gave chase and arrested Arrington at the school. Phillips was arrested at his home Tuesday evening.
Police are trying to determine if the men were involved in a string of up to 10 robberies over the past six weeks, including one at a motel on Kearny Mesa Road on Aug. 4, in which off-duty Huntington Beach Police Officer Robert Barr was shot.
“We’re still looking at them as possible suspects,” San Diego police spokesman Dave Cohen said. But “we don’t have anything that links them with (any San Diego) cases.”
Escondido police said they suspect that the men might also be responsible for two robberies there last Thursday.