Student robbed at gunpoint on South 40

Perry Stein and Puneet Kollipara

A female freshman was robbed at gunpoint on the South 40 Friday night while walking in the area directly north of Park House, according to the Washington University Police Department.

At about 7:40 p.m., a man approached the student, pointed a gun at her and took her purse. He then fled and has yet to be apprehended.

According to Don Strom, chief of the Washington University Police Department (WUPD), the victim was not physically injured and there were no reported valuables in the purse.

The suspect was last seen leaving the scene by running outside the west side of the building and presumably jumping the fence around the area of Big Bend and Wydown boulevards.

Police described the suspect as a black male in his early 20s, around six feet tall, possessing a thin build and short hair. The suspect was wearing blue jeans, a red hooded sweatshirt without the hood pulled up and a black jacket over the sweatshirt.

Strom said that the victim is handling the situation well.

“She did a great job under the circumstances, and she’s got some good support coming from her friends and from the Residential Life staff,” said Strom.

Freshman Amy Heard arrived at the scene soon after the incident on her way to Bear’s Den.

“I was going to dinner and the victim was talking to the police officer in the lobby of the dorm,” said Heard. “The victim looked shocked but she was not physically injured.”

Officials with WUPD and multiple surrounding agencies are currently investigating the case and are continuing to interview potential witnesses. A few individuals in other neighborhoods who matched the description of the suspect have been stopped and questioned, but none of them has been identified as the suspect.

In response to the incident, Strom said that the police department would be stepping up patrols around the general area of the event. Additionally, WUPD sent out an alert via e-mail to the entire University community with a description of the event, safety advice, and information on how to report tips to police.

Police do not currently believe that the robbery has any connection with the recent string of dorm room burglaries over winter break.

“Based on where the investigation is, we do not believe there is any link between this incident and those,” said Strom.

Strom applauded the victim’s response to the suspect’s demands.

“She didn’t resist in any way. She gave him the item he asked for, and he immediately fled,” said Strom. “If you are ever confronted by a thief, you should give them what they want and call police.”

Strom characterized this type of incident as being very rare on campus.

“These sorts of incidents are very rare on the campus, and very rare in the residential housing areas,” said Strom. “I’ve been here 8 years, and we’ve never had an incident quite like this in our residential areas.”

Strom advises students not to walk or jog alone, especially after dark, to choose well-lit paths and to be aware of their surroundings. He recommended that students carry whistles with them to summon help and report any suspicious behavior to police. Most importantly, Strom said that students should never try to resist any thief.

WUPD encourages anyone with information about the suspect or the robbery to report these tips by calling the police department at 314-935-5555. Individuals can also report leads by going to the department’s Web site at and going to the “Silent Witness” area, where they can fill out an anonymous e-mail form.

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