Four Howard sophomores were punched, kicked and stomped on last week, leaving one hospitalized after being stabbed during the attack, one victim and a witness said.
The victim revealed that he and his friend were “not looking for a fight,” but trying to aid an unidentified man who had been beaten moments before by a group of about 40 locals, whom the university believes are a part of a “juvenile fight club.”
The attack comes at a precarious time in D.C., as violent crime and carjackings surge across the District. On Aug. 17, Mayor Muriel Bowser announced a new youth curfew in certain parts of the city, including the Howard-Shaw area, in an attempt to curb the uptick in juvenile crime.
According to a victim, who chose to remain anonymous out of fear of being targeted by the attackers, he and a friend arrived at Towers East on their way back from a food truck after an on-campus party on Aug. 13 at around 2 a.m.
That was when they had noticed locals in the area having a “block party” on the sidewalks of Barry Place NW and 9th Street NW, the victim said, which is in between Banneker Park, Trellis House apartment and Howard Plaza Towers dormitories.
Upon walking up to the entrance of East Towers, the two students described seeing a man left beaten and stripped of his clothes, laying on the sidewalk in a battered state. The victim said the man had been jumped by a large group of locals in the area moments before.
“After everybody had left him alone, we went to try to get him up, get him inside, get him some medical attention,” the victim told The Hilltop. “It was bad. We didn’t want to leave this guy fighting for his life on the sidewalk…We just wanted to do something out of the kindness of our hearts.”
With this act of kindness, the locals questioned if the two sophomores knew the man.
“These people came up to us like ‘Oh, this is your friend?’ They were being super hostile and aggressive towards us,” the victim said.
Following verbal exchanges between the two victims and the group of D.C. locals, “one of them swings at my friend,” he said.
The two sophomores were “back-to-back” fending for themselves as more locals started to punch and kick them, the victim said. “They caught us by one of the Towers signs and we’re just curled up in a ball trying to survive – it was like 20, 30 people just fighting with us two.”
***Warning: the following video contains graphic material.***
When the victim and his friend finally got up from the ground, more of their friends, who were on their way back from the party on campus, approached the area about five minutes later, according to a witness.
“We ended up getting separated from our friends when we got chased into Towers,” the victim said. He said he and his friend hid in an unlocked room while a second fight occurred outside with two of his other friends.
According to a police report from the Metropolitan Police Department (MPD) obtained by The Hilltop, at about 2:30 a.m. those two students were ambushed and beaten for roughly 15 minutes. The witness believed the group of attackers to be between the ages of 17 and 22. During this fight, one student was stabbed in his back by an unidentified object, according to the police report.
When the victim and his friend decided it was safe to leave the room, they returned outside to the front of the building to reunite with their two friends, encountering what he described as an unsettling scene in the aftermath of the fight.
“Just seeing his face, it was extremely swollen, he was almost unrecognizable,” the victim said, describing his friend who had just been stabbed. “It was really bad. By the grace of God he survived that. It was such a traumatic event.”
The witness recalled seeing blood on the ground outside of the residence.
According to the victim and the police report, the students were also robbed. A set of keys, a pair of low top Air Jordans, multiple hats, a backpack and a blue iPhone were among the items stolen.
Both the victim and the witness told The Hilltop that during and following the assault, the response from the Howard University Department of Public Safety and MPD was “slow” and “negligent.” The victim also emphasized what he believed was a “lack of security” in the area where the attack occurred.
MPD said that they were “dispatched to the 2200 block of Sherman Avenue, NW” at approximately 4:43 a.m.
“The police were very, very unhelpful,” the witness said. “Even though those guys were right across the street, taunting the victims.”
The victim said that he and his friends had notified a DPS official that a group of locals were antagonizing people near the residence, but was told by the official that there was “nothing they could do” because it was occurring outside of DPS jurisdiction.
The victim shared that the official had encouraged students to retaliate and fight the locals back, telling them the students to “get your lick back.”
In a town hall on Aug. 15, DPS Chief of Police Marcus Lyles addressed the actions of the DPS official.
“Although that investigation continues, there was enough evidence where I removed a lieutenant from that position,” he said. “The contractor that the university has engaged to secure that facility has been released from their position as well, and will not be back on our campus.”
Tashni-Ann Dubroy, executive vice president and chief operating officer, explained that the juveniles responsible for last week’s assaults at Towers East were instigated by a “fight club” that university officials have been monitoring for months.
Dubroy believes that the D.C. juveniles are “agitating our students.”
For the victim, the anxieties surrounding his safety did not end after the brawl dispersed. He shared that later on the same day, he had encountered the assailants again when walking back to Towers East with his friends.
“We were walking past McDonald’s and somebody yelled ‘Hey! Was that y’all last night?’” the victim said. “We told them they had the wrong people. Then they got in the car and started following us, but the lights changed so they couldn’t get behind us.”
The victim shared that he and his friends then ran towards campus, and hid in the Ernest Everett Just Hall on the Valley until they felt it was safe to leave.
“It’s not over,” he said. “And the police still aren’t doing anything.”
In a response to the uptick of crime on and surrounding campus, Lyles told The Hilltop that students can expect an increase of DPS personale on pathways leading up to dormitories.
“I need to remind our community of who our students are,” Lyles said. “They should be protected. Not only from a force or a department, but they should be supported and protected by a community as a whole. If you come and you hurt us, you’re hurting yourself because our students are the future leaders.”
DPS safety tips:
- Travel in groups and share your location with others.
- When moving through campus at night, always stay within lighted areas and walk in groups.
- Download the Bison SAFE mobile app.
- For on-campus emergencies, contact DPS by calling 202-806-1100.
- Keep your Peace of Mind device charged and on hand before leaving your place of residence.
- For off-campus emergencies, contact 911.
Copy edited by N’dia Webb