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Howard University student pistol-whipped, robbed while walking to class

‘I’m not trying to die before I even finish college,’ the sophomore, who was assaulted and stripped of a $600 Gucci belt in front of campus gates, said.

The Nov. 20 robbery occurred on the sidewalk next to the Howard Mackey Building of Architecture, which was the second time a gun was pulled on the 19-year-old sophomore while attending Howard University. (JD Jean-Jacques/The Hilltop)

A Howard University student was pistol-whipped, kicked and robbed by two armed men while walking towards the main campus gate last week, according to the victim and a police report.

The victim, who preferred to remain anonymous out of fear for his safety, said the robbery occurred as he was walking to class up the hill on Howard Place NW at about 9:30 a.m. on Nov. 20 when he was tapped on the shoulder from behind, thinking it was his friend. 

The tap was followed by an aggressive tug, causing the 19-year-old victim to spin around and see two men taking aim at him with handguns. The victim said he spent the next five to six minutes fending off his attackers, who robbed him of a $600 Gucci belt, according to the Metropolitan Police Department. 

According to the police report, the robbers told the student “I just need all of this,” referencing his clothing items.

“I was just in shock. It wasn’t the fact that I even got robbed, it was just the fact that it was on campus at 9:30,” the sophomore said. “The fact that I can’t even walk to class at 9:30 and just relax. It’s crazy… I didn’t know how to react.”

Last week’s robbery on a Howard student marks one of several on or near Howard’s campus this year, including the mid-August incident where a student was stabbed in front of Howard Plaza Towers. DPS’ crime alert of the robbery did not disclose the victim as a Howard University student nor the exact location of the robbery and assault.  

On the sidewalk, the victim started wrestling with the two men to keep his belongings when one of them hit him in the mouth with the butt of the handgun, causing his lip to bleed.

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After breaking free of their grasp, the two men caught hold of the victim’s backpack, pulling him over and pushing him to the ground in between two cars, he said. One of the sophomore’s attackers reached down to pull off his belt and was able to do so after the other hit him over the head with a gun and started kicking him. The robbers taunted the student before fleeing in a gray car, he said.

The victim did not seek medical attention following the robbery and assault, according to MPD. At this time, there are no updates regarding the suspects of the robbery. 

A witness, who preferred to remain anonymous out of fear for her safety, was walking toward the School of Business from the bottom of the hill on Howard Place NW and was about 10 feet behind the victim at the time of the robbery and assault, she said. The senior said she knew the victim and was confused to see the two men approach him. 

“The way they came up, it was so weird. At first I didn’t know they were going to rob him or if they were his friends because they just slightly tapped him,” she said. “And then they started jumping him.”

The witness said she then turned around to walk toward Georgia Avenue in fear that helping the victim would result in the robbers attacking her. 

​​“I was like, ‘Oh my god, I really just witnessed someone get robbed at gun point’ and I didn’t even do anything, I was just so scared,” she said.  “And it was my friend, I talked to him like minutes before it happened.”

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The witness said she did not initially call the police because she had to get to her 9:40 a.m. class and was concerned about missing her scheduled presentation. She said that after her class at 11 a.m., she informed a Howard University police officer she saw near the School of Business that she witnessed the robbery that morning, providing her student ID number and contact information. The witness said she has yet to be contacted by a university official regarding her account.

The victim walked up these stairs, which were frequented by students, before he was robbed. (JD Jean-Jacques/The Hilltop)

After the scuffle, the victim told a security guard what happened, who called Howard’s Department of Public Safety (DPS). The Hilltop contacted DPS by phone and email for comment regarding the security guard’s account of the robbery, but no response was given at the time of publication.

DPS informed the university community of the robbery shortly after 10 a.m. on Nov. 20 in an email, describing the robbers as “two black males with a slim build 5’10” to 6” wearing ski masks and dark clothing.

In an emailed statement to The Hilltop, Assistant Vice President of Strategic Communications Monica Lewis said, “We are working diligently with the Metropolitan Police Department to gather further information to determine what may have occurred. As always, our top priority is the safety and well-being of our students, faculty, staff and visitors and this alert was issued to ensure people are aware of reports we receive regarding public safety.”

The victim said he was stunned and disappointed that he found himself fighting, potentially for his life, at gunpoint in front of campus on a Monday morning.

“I’m trying to finish college. I’m not trying to die before I even finish college,” he said. “I’m trying to make a way for my mom, my nephew, my sister, my brothers. I can’t do none of that if I’m dead.”

This year, the District faces a 40 percent surge in violent crime, including robberies, assaults with dangerous weapons and homicides. 

This is the second time the sophomore was targeted with a gun as a student this school year. 

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During Homecoming weekend, while standing outside of Howard Plaza Towers, the student experienced a verbal altercation with a man inside a car. The student said the altercation resulted in the man aiming a green laser attached to a gun at the sophomore’s chest before driving off. The student chose not to call the police or alert DPS.

In an October interview with The Hilltop, President Ben Vinson III indicated that one of his primary goals as newly appointed president would be to enhance safety measures on campus. Earlier this month, D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser issued an emergency declaration to address a rise in violent crime impacting the city’s youth.

“The situation happened, but there’s nothing I could really do about it right now so I’m just trying to not let that ruin my days,” the victim said in reference to last Monday’s robbery. “I’m just trying to move forward.”

However, the victim didn’t think that wearing a Gucci belt meant that he deserved to be robbed that morning.

“Just because it’s expensive, doesn’t mean it should be a target on my head,” he said. “I go to an HBCU, this is supposed to be what I’m proud of. I made it. I made it here. I made it to college.”

Copy edited by Alana Matthew

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