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Police reports allege pattern of abuse by former Illinois football player Lere Oladipo

Police reports show pattern of abuse by former Illinois football player Oladipo

Illinois defensive lineman Lere Oladipo plays against Akron in September at Memorial Stadium in Champaign. Oladipo, a Huntley native, was dismissed from the Illinois football program last month after multiple allegations of domestic abuse.
Illinois defensive lineman Lere Oladipo plays against Akron in September at Memorial Stadium in Champaign. Oladipo, a Huntley native, was dismissed from the Illinois football program last month after multiple allegations of domestic abuse.

In August, University of Illinois juniorHana Inman returned home to Bourbonnais with "bruising on her neck, arms and legs" – and her mother wanted to know why.

Inman, 20, told her mother, Cassandra Johnson, that she had been in a fight with her ex-boyfriend, Illinois defensive lineman Olalere "Lere" Oladipo. Her daughter's story prompted Johnson to call the Champaign Police Department on Aug. 31.

According to a Champaign police report obtained by the Northwest Herald, Johnson also told police that Inman had previous 2018 domestic battery charges against Oladipo dropped "because she was pressured to by coaches and friends of Olalere."

Champaign police initially denied a Freedom of Information Act request submitted by the Northwest Herald for the police report. The Northwest Herald challenged the denial with the Public Access Counselor in the Office of the Attorney General, and was subsequently given the report.

The Huntley Police Department also denied a request for incident reports involving Oladipo, saying that no charges have been filed in any report that mentions Oladipo. The Northwest Herald is appealing that denial as well.

Inman said Oladipo, a Huntley native, met her in a Champaign parking lot on Aug. 27 to return jewelry she had left with him. The two were talking in Oladipo’s car outside Scotty’s Brewhouse in Champaign when things turned violent.

“While talking he got mad and hit her and choked her at one point,” Johnson told police, according to the report. “She never called police because she is afraid of him and what others will say to her.” 

It was not the first time Oladipo’s alleged abuse of Inman led to police involvement, although he has not been found guilty of a crime in connection with any allegations. Reports indicate police intervened on two occasions, but in both cases, Inman declined to cooperate.

Oladipo, 22, declined to comment for this story. A former standout defensive lineman on the Huntley football team, he was dismissed from the Illini team on Nov. 19 for a “violation of team rules.” He had been suspended from the team since September, after playing in two games during the 2019 season. It was his second suspension from the team in as many seasons, both coming after domestic battery allegations involving Inman.

Oladipo's first suspension came after University of Illinois Police arrested him in October 2018 on suspicion of domestic battery. Records show a witness told police they saw Oladipo force Inman into a car in a campus parking lot on Oct. 28, 2018. Those charges were dropped in December 2018, and Oladipo was reinstated to the Illini football team in January. 

In an interview with the Northwest Herald, Inman said she had the charges dropped because she was still in a relationship with Oladipo at the time. The Northwest Herald doesn’t typically name victims of abuse, but Inman granted an interview and has been open about her experience on social media. 

“It’s just ... the dynamics of an abusive relationship, you get manipulated,” Inman said. “I started to believe [him]. He told me that [his arrest] was a wake-up call. That him going to jail, it’s a wake-up call. And then it happened again and again and again, so obviously it wasn’t.”

Attorney Tom Bruno, who represented Oladipo in the 2018 case, said Oladipo is no longer his client. After Oladipo’s dismissal from the Illini football team last month, he said on Twitter that he plans to transfer to continue playing football at another school.

Reports show several allegations

Inman said she met Oladipo when both were freshmen in fall 2017, when she worked for the Illini football team filming video. They began dating in March 2018. Inman claims Oladipo, who is listed as 6-foot-3, 275 pounds, first hit her in April of that year. She says it became worse when they returned in August for football training camp. Police reports indicate a friend of Inman's, whose name is redacted, told police in October 2018 that Inman "had been physically abused by Oladipo approximately five times since freshman year 2017."

University of Illinois Police arrested Oladipo in the early hours of Oct. 28, 2018, records show. A witness, whose name is redacted from the police report, heard “a woman screaming desperately” from a campus parking lot and saw a man in dark clothing pick up a woman and throw her inside a car. The witness called the police. 

“He was holding me up, hitting me,” Inman told the Northwest Herald. “I can’t even tell you because that’s how bad it was, beating me all the way to his car and forced me to his car. I was screaming at the top of my lungs.”

Inman said Oladipo had calmed down by the time police arrived. Officers questioned them separately. Oladipo admitted arguing, according to the report, but said their interaction never became physical. 

“Oladipo explained that he was a U of I football player and could not get into any trouble,” the police report shows. 

Asked why her lip was bleeding, Inman “said it happened when Oladipo grabbed her and forced her in the car.” Officers arrested Oladipo about 1 a.m. Oladipo was suspended for the rest of the 2018 football season, but Inman later changed her story and the charges were dropped. Inman said the two continued to date, and the abuse stopped temporarily.

It resumed in February 2019, however, Inman said. She said she tried to break up with Oladipo numerous times over the ensuing months, but he refused to accept it. He would drive hours to confront her, Inman said. Inman showed the Northwest Herald screenshots of Instagram messages in which Oladipo told Inman he was coming over, despite her telling him not to.

“He just shows up where I’m at,” Inman said. “I sent the school multiple, multiple screenshots of him threatening me and saying he’s driving. He literally will drive an hour and a half to [Bourbonnais] just to beat me when I try to break up with him, and then leave.”

In July, Inman started pursuing a case through the university’s Subcommittee on Sexual Misconduct. Inman told the Northwest Herald that she pursued a case through the student disciplinary system rather than the justice system because she didn’t think pressing charges was the answer.

“I feel like jail would make [Oladipo] more violent when he gets out, and that just might not be the best solution,” Inman said. 

Inman repeatedly declined to press charges in connection with the August incident, records show, including in the days after her mother reported the incident and again in October, after her mother sent pictures of her injuries to police.

Results lead to frustration

Inman said she did cooperate in the student disciplinary hearing, for which she said she provided photos, text messages and witnesses as evidence.

According to Inman, the subcommittee did not expel Oladipo, although it did find him guilty of five student code violations. Student disciplinary records are confidential under the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act, and university officials declined to provide them.

On Oct. 30, Inman told her story on Twitter in a series of about 30 tweets, which included photos of bruises. She also voiced her concern about the university hearing process. 

“I was relying on the university to do what was right,” Inman said.

Illinois athletics dismissed Oladipo from the football team less than a month later, announcing the decision in a short statement. The Illinois Division of Intercollegiate Athletics “considers this issue closed and will have no further comment,” the statement read. 

Meanwhile, Oladipo is searching for a new school to pursue football. He played in a total of six games for the Illini over three seasons, redshirting as a freshman in 2017. He has two years of eligibility remaining.

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