Investigation continues in South 40 mugging

Perry Stein
Scott Bressler

Five days after the armed robbery of a freshman female student on the South 40, the Washington University Police Department (WUPD) has not yet identified a suspect in the incident.

The student was robbed on Friday night while walking in the area directly north of Park House, according to WUPD.

At about 7:40 p.m. a man approached the student, pointed a gun at her stomach and took her purse before fleeing the scene.

“No one was following me. I was right in front of the dumpster and the guy came in front of me,” said the victim. “I didn’t notice him. I’m used to trusting everyone on campus.”

According to Don Strom, chief of WUPD, the victim was not physically injured, and there were no reported valuables in the purse.

During the robbery, the victim’s keys were also stolen; when the police arrived, the keys were immediately deactivated.

“More important than my stuff getting stolen is this guy having access to all our buildings,” the victim said.

The suspect was last seen leaving the scene while 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.

The victim said that because the University seems so isolated from the rest of St. Louis, students sometimes forget to take safety precautions that are necessary when living in a major city. However, in general she said she still feels the campus is a safe place.

“I think we got overconfident. We thought we weren’t part of the outside. We live in a big city and things like this happen,” she said. “I want to give Wash. U. the benefit of the doubt. I do think this was an isolated incident and I am trying not to lose faith in the safety of the campus.”

Strom said that the victim has handled the situation well-both in the moment and in the aftermath of the event.

“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. “She didn’t resist in any way. She gave him the item he asked for, and he immediately fled.”

The victim said she had taken a self-defense class in high school and knew what to do in a situation like this.

“I have taken self-defense and they teach you your stuff isn’t worth putting yourself in danger for,” she said.

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 has increased patrol in residential areas.

“We want the campus community to feel they are safe,” said Strom.

While there are still no additional plans for campus security in the long run, Strom said that he has met with campus leaders, both students and faculty, regarding the issue.

“We think it’s important to have ongoing dialogue on what should be the next steps, or if there should be additional steps,” said Strom. “There’s not a long history or trend of this happening on campus, so we will also factor that into what we will do next.”

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.

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.

-With additional reporting by Puneet Kollipara.

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