Two USC journalism students covering NFL draft arrested in jersey thefts

Eric Lambkins II, left, and Jude Ocañas in side-by-side photos
Eric Lambkins II, left, and Jude Ocañas were arrested in the thefts of NFL draft day jerseys, police said.
(Alan Mittelstaedt)

Two USC journalism students covering the NFL draft were arrested while boarding a plane back to Los Angeles in the theft of more than $1,000 worth of first-round draft-pick jerseys, according to the Kansas City, Missouri, Police Department.

The students, Eric Lambkins II and Jude Ocañas, had been in Missouri last week covering the NFL draft for the student-run multiplatform news outlet known as Annenberg Media, which operates under the USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism, according to USC’s journalism school publication.

Video surveillance showed the two students around 1:20 a.m. Friday entering areas connected to the NFL draft where they did not have access, according to the Police Department. The NFL identified them as Ocañas and Lambkins, police said.


Lambkins and Ocañas entered into the “talent waiting room,” with Lambkins holding a bag, according to police. They stayed in the room about five minutes before leaving with the bag looking “fuller,” police said.

The two were not given credentials to enter the “talent waiting room,” the vice president of security for the NFL told police.

Three jerseys were stolen from the room, according to the NFL. The stolen items were a San Francisco 49ers jersey, a Dallas Cowboys jersey and a Minnesota Vikings jersey. They all had the number “1” printed on the back with no players’ names.

“These jerseys are used to give to players selected in the first round of the NFL draft and have a very sentimental meaning,” Kansas City police Det. Craig Leach wrote in a report.

Officers arrested Lambkins and Ocañas just before they were to board a flight back to Los Angeles, according to police.

Police searched the students’ baggage and found the Cowboys and 49ers jerseys, according to the probable cause statement form filed by police. The missing Vikings jersey was not mentioned among the recovered items.


Lambkins, a graduate student and Los Angeles native who is a U.S. Army veteran, has worked for the last two years covering sports for the Culver City Observer and the Good News Radio.

Ocañas is an undergraduate journalism major, according to USC Annenberg Media.

The trip to cover the draft was paid for by the USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism.

“While limited by student privacy laws in what we can share, we are cooperating with the authorities in this matter and will follow our internal processes with respect to any allegations of misconduct,” USC said in a statement.

Ocañas could not be reached for comment. Lambkins referred comment to his attorney, David Bell, who issued this statement:

“Out of respect for our system of justice, we are not going to comment on the evidence outside of the courtroom,” Bell said. “We are confident that the unique set of circumstances in this case, combined with the extraordinary reputations of Mr. Lambkins and Mr. Ocañas, will result in a fair and equitable resolution to all parties involved.”