SAIS Student Mugged in Columbia Heights Monday Night

Photo by PoPville flickr user AWard Tour

A reader forwards this alert from SAIS public affairs:

Dear SAIS Community,

We wanted to make you aware of an incident that took place in a nearby neighborhood on Monday at approximately 10 p.m. involving one of our students.

The student was leaving the Columbia Heights Metro station and was approached by two men who pointed a gun at the student and demanded his backpack. Fortunately, our student was not harmed in this case—he turned over his backpack filled with his laptop, wallet and other personal belongings. An incident report has been filed with the D.C. Police.

This is just a reminder that we do live in an urban setting and crime does happen. Please try to be aware of your surroundings at all times and travel with others when possible, especially in the evenings. Also, as our student did in this case, it is best not to get into an altercation with assailants—it is always safer to turn over your belongings.

114 Comment

  • What?! A gun pointed at him while leaving the Columbia Heights Metro – among all those people and activity. Surely Metro has video.

    I would have made a big fuss over that one – start screaming and acting up like a crazy fool. Watch how fast people run away. Call attention to yourself in a busy spot.

    You ain’t getting my stuff that easy, not if I can help it.

    ACT UP – fight back.

    • fighting back is all well and good, but when a gun gets pulled, i think that’s the time to put things in perspective. “You ain’t getting my stuff that easy, not if I can help it” is kind of a weird point here. i agree that it’s very odd that this happened at a busy time (10:00 pm) in a very busy spot.

    • wow. I hope you change your attitude before somebody pulls a gun on you.

      • It already happened and I freaked ’em out.

        I agree there are moments when it is wiser to give in, but this does not sound like one of them.

        My Momma told me a long time ago, “If you let them push you around, they will always push you around.

        • It’s a freakin gun! One little trigger squeeze and your life is OVER! True, they won’t be pushing you around again, but that’ll be because you’re dead. If a gun is pointed at you, comply with demands.

          • These kids are punks. They can’t even hit anything. Still, it isn’t time to call them on their threats. What will change that? Further gentrification and conceal & carry coming to DC soon…

    • It makes me mad too–that giving up stuff should be the first response.

      But the student had a gun pointed at him. It doesn’t matter how many witnesses there are, if the robber shoots the guy will probably be injured or worse. The fact that the gunman might not shoot, or that he might get caught if he does, isn’t going to cancel that out.

    • Prince Of Petworth

      If someone pulls a gun on you the best advice is to comply with their demands. Anything else is foolish. And as many have previously noted – it is not worth dying over a wallet.

      If Frankie James wants to behave crazy that is fine for him but horrible advice to give others.

      If someone pulls a gun, you give up your wallet. Period.

      • You should let the readership decide what they think is the best course of action.

        I personally don’t want to wait around with a gun pointed in my face. I think your odds of being shot while taking off your backpack or digging through your pockets, etc. are a lot higher than when simply turning and running away.

        • Prince Of Petworth

          You’d be wrong.

          • And what makes you the expert?

          • PoP- Sounds like the drop and run tactic is what a lot of people are agreeing on in the thread…might want to take some of your readers advice instead of standing there staring down the barrel while you disrobe.

          • Prince Of Petworth

            Mizer I’d encourage you to discuss this with Law Enforcement and see what they recommend in this exact situation.

          • How do you know I am not law enforcement?

          • Prince Of Petworth

            I know who you work for. I’m talking local law enforcement particularly the Metropolitan Police Department.

          • What’s the difference?

          • If they have a weapon, HAND OVER YOUR STUFF. Seriously.

            I have also heard from cops and a self-defense teacher that you should absolutely run (after dropping your purse/wallet/backpack!!) if the perps try and get you to get go anywhere else, like into a car or alley, regardless of whether or not they have a weapon.

        • They’re robbers. The goal is to get your stuff, not shoot you. Ideally, drop the valuables in front of yourself and jet. If they know what they’re doing (pros), they don’t want to shoot you because that’ll put the neighborhood under intense police scrutiny for a while — as well as increase their potential sentence and risk of apprehension. If they’re just kids acting out a gangster fantasy with a little blood lust, you’re screwed either way. At least putting the valuables on the ground is a distraction.

          • I wouldn’t run either. Making sudden movements is a good way to get shot. Just give them your shit and let them go on their way.

          • Why would they shoot someone running away when they have a pile of goods in front of them? Doesn’t make sense. They’re looking to rob folks, not kill them.

          • Tres, you always seem to assume in your posts that everyone acts rationally. Young thug criminals arent rational. And you cant assume that their motivations are profit driven.

          • +1000 drop you bag or phone or whatever you have in your hand and bolt.

          • At the same time, you can’t assume they’re not profit driven. If it’s a 50/50 chance of either (50% they’re hungry for blood, 50% they’ll shoot only if threatened), it still makes sense to run.

            Maybe someone has more anecdotal evidence about muggings, besides Frankie. I really like his idea, but I’d apply it to non-muggings — dates gone awry, etc.

          • If the robber thinks you are running to find the police or someone who can call the police, they might freak out and shoot you. When I was robbed at gunpoint, after the robber took my shit he told me to turn around and walk away slowly without saying anything. I did and I didn’t get shot, and I’d recommend doing the same since that’s clearly what the robber wants you to do. The robber does not want you to make a scene or run off and try to find help, and trying to do that might scare them into shooting you. All of this happens so quickly the last thing you want to do is scare the person who is pointing a gun at you.

      • Amen. I hope everyone places their health and personal safety over their belongings/laptop.

      • I completely agree.

        Frankie, your advice is beyond careless. If you want to put your own life in danger under some mistaken sense of machismo, thats within your rights – I suppose. But dont act like your behavior is either preferred or wise.

        If someone pulls a gun on you, comply. If you’re going to get shot doing that – you’d get shot running away or trying to fight.

      • Sorry if you/your readers misunderstood me POP. I did not mean to give others advice.

        I am simply responding to your post which now seems to be a daily feature – Mugged here, Mugged there.

        I am sure the “bean counters” told someone somewhere – do it because most will just give in. The criminals have risk involved as well.

        Again, I agree there are moments when it is wiser to give in, but this does not sound like one of them.

        • You are still an idiot. And grossly irresponsible for spreading bad ideas that could get someone killed. The correct response when a weapon involved in a robbery is always to give the robber your shit. A backpack isn’t worth getting killed over.

          • If somebody out there is being held up and thinking “What would that dude who posts as Frankie James on PoP do in this situation?” You’re probably screwed any way you slice it. Let’s not get all melodramatic. Frankie James is stupid, but not responsible for getting someone killed with his reckless advice.

      • Completely agree, thanks for benig realistic! You never know what the person holding the gun is thinking. They might have no intention of shooting you even if you run. But on the other hand they might be thinking “I’ll shoot this guy if he doesn’t give me his stuff” and it’s not worth risking it to find out which type of mugger he is.

        I’m surprised so many readers think they would fight back in this situation… with a gun pointed at your head I have a feeling a lot of you would quickly change your gutsy & wishful behavior.

    • +1

      If a gun gets pulled on me I’m pulling my gun on them.

  • What is SAIS? That might be helpful.

  • JESUS Col Hi! WTF lately?!!??!

    • There’s a collection of subsidized housing with unsupervised youth engaged in gang activity. That, coupled with the fact none of them feel the need to find nor want a job, results in robbery.

      As long as that blight sits in the middle of a transitioning neighborhood, which Co hi is, you’ll have this nonsense. Ship ’em to SE and tear down their taxpayer funded entitlement to an otherwise desirable neighborhood to live in.

      • Yes, move the problem to another neighborhood so other innocent people can be shot and/or mugged. Brilliant.

        Until every last one of us understands that we are our brother’s keeper, even when our fellow man is acting irresponsibly for a variety of reasons, this will continue.

        Or we’ll operate like other places that refuse to solve problems, we’ll build giant walls around our homes, the rich will hire private drivers, and the rest of us will avoid the streets and be subjected to a high risk of violence when we don’t.

        • Exactly, we need to keep this concentrated in Columbia Heights, where people will at least know to expect it. This level of crime also helps keep homes affordable for middle-class residents.

          • So let me get this straight: your affordable housing program is keeping crime at a high enough, yet tolerable level so enough upper class people don’t drive up housing prices?

            K.I.L.L. – Keepin’ Illegality Livin’ Large! Good slogan..

        • I’ll tell you what’s brilliant: subsidizing housing for people who have no interest in educating nor employing themselves and expecting them to live in the same neighborhoods where people have the exact opposite life outlook. We are creating artificial expectations of subsistence when, what we should be saying to these people is, “you can’t afford to live here because of your life decisions.” Maybe then they could create their own communities based upon their own grounded expectations and/or decide that they need to work to live and play amongst the middle to upper classes.

          And lest you call me a racist, see: Housing bubble, artificially low mortgages and McMansions foreclosed, therein.

    • Guess you should have read up on crime around here. I hope you havent been one of those people going around with your nose in the air about the crime problems of other neighborhoods thinking you werent vulnerable.

      Crime is bad in Columbia Heights. Something needs to be done about it, but it shares this problem with plenty of other places.

  • At about 8p last night two people ran past my basement apartment into an alley with one yelling “Hey, stop that man!”


  • time to move the pro-jects out of columbia heights!!

  • Where should they go?

  • REALLY??? @I’ll tell you WTF “Ship ‘em to SE” is your solution to the problem? And where in SE are you talking about?

    There are much better solutions out there than “shipping people” to other neighborhoods. Ridiculous.

    • Let me guess, you want to spend even more money on community centers and mentoring… same old solutions and same old problems.

      • So the best solution is segregating the rich from the poor? “Shipping” “them” away is preferable to community centers and mentoring projects? These solutions are far from perfect but help more than economic apartheid.

        • The best solution is to hold people accountable for their actions. Not to continue throwing money at ineffective programs. I strongly believe in helping those less fortunate, but what we have in this city is a permanent underclass that is subsidized into perpetuity. Temporary assistance for those in need, should be just that, temporary.

          • +3

            Right, and we need to integrate DC, socio-economically. Give all the makers of new developments the ability to build above current height restrictions in exchange for swaths of low income rental units, which are dispersed throughout the building somewhat randomly. Give larger tax abatements in exchange for large numbers of low income units on a % basis. Create a fund that provides tax credits to Section 8 buildings which convert to mixed income. The fund would be sized according to net low income rental units DC procures with the abatement/height concessions. (Or in lieu of credits, no interest loans).

            Something like that, rather than Section 8 shift.

          • DC is already plenty integrated socioeconomically. That’s why we have thieves living amongst us.

          • You’re talking about integration on a macro level, I’m talking about it on a micro level — individual buildings or projects.

            But it’s really not integrated on the macro level either. Yes, there’s a band of integration where high income transitions to low income, but that’s it. Thats a very small part of the city. Wards 2 + 3 and Wards 7 + 8 couldn’t be more dissimilar from each other — vastly unequal in economic situations.

          • The older model of public housing and the mono-block section 8 buildings need to eliminated and replaced with smaller more integrated residencies for those needing assistance. Warehousing the poor, either in publicly owned buildings or in massive entirely subsidized buildings, has proven to be an immense failure. Unfortunately, those you benefit from this the most, think Jim Graham, Vince Gray, etc… control the system and don’t want to change it.

            Pay close attention to Jim Graham when he talks about subsidized housing and public housing, his tone and demeanor change depending on the audience he’s addressing.

        • It’s not seperating the rich from the poor but rather the violent criminals from the law-abiding citizens.

        • Which is ok. If you can’t behave where you live, then you live somewhere else.

          It’s as old a concept as the bible itself.

    • what are the better solutions then? putting them in jail? that might be hard since they are too young.

      if they get social housing then it should be expected from them to act socially in return. if they don’t then they have no right to ask for any social benefits. social benefits should not be a one way street.

  • I once heard some professional advice from a crime expert about how to handle a mugging from someone with a weapon (years later this happened to me, I did what they recommended, and it worked). If someone has a weapon and demands your valuables, take our your wallet or purse and hold it up to their face and say “This is all I got.” You then throw it to the ground in one direction, and then you take off running in the opposite direction. Chances are that once they have what they came for, they won’t bother chasing you or shooting. Worst thing you can do is to actually stay there and let them demand more things. And if they ask you to come with them somewhere, NEVER go with them. Better to take your chances running. If they take you away to what they call a “secondary crime scene” that’s when really terrible things happen to people…

    • Good advice. And when you run, don’t run in a straight line. Believe it or not, hitting a moving target running away, zigging and zagging, is a very difficult shot for even a professional, i.e., someone who isn’t a 14 y.o. thug firing a high caliber handgun he can barely control.

  • It is amazing that few criminals can control an entire city. Is there a plan to stop this or will the muggings/killing of innocent people continue? Why don’t we all, law abiding citizens get together and become a gang against the others?

    • i don’t feel controlled by it.

      • me

        Wait until you become a victim. Once you’re mugged, you have a gun or knife pulled on you, or are raped or beaten in the commission of a robbery, then let me know how you feel.

        • don’t be patronizing. i’ve been a victim jen. i’ve been attacked in dc and other places. i’ve woke up in the hospital after 2 of them. yes, it was horrible. i was already a cautious person, since even as a kid i had to watch my back. your assumptions that one must then feel controlled by crime is sad.
          they do not control us. and there are more of us than them. find your courage. you have it in you somewhere.

          • me

            So I’m not courageous because a mugger who attacked me left me handicapped? So yes, I feel controlled by it. Not patronizing- incredulous.

          • i’m sorry that happened to you jen.
            thank you for telling me to wait for the same thing to happen to me.

          • me

            at least you’ll have courage facing it if, god forbid, it would happen, instead of cowering like me

          • jen
            i didnt say you were cowering. you said you were controlled by it. i said find your courage to not be controlled by it.
            you said our city was controlled by thugs. i said i didn’t feel controlled by it.

            i would be angry too if i had been handicapped by violent actions. but i won’t concede control to those that did that to you or those that have hurt me. not in words. not in my actions. not in my life.
            and no, it’s not easy.

      • I’ve been reading about the history of Palermo. Believe me, our city is FAR from being criminally-controlled.

  • OK, so yesterday a police dog sniffs out and finds a gun inside a parked U Haul truck. OK, so we know the city is just filled with teens and adults alike packing serious heat and meaning to do harm (just look at what they did during the north face jacket robbery up on New Hampshire, shot and killed the boy after he complied!). OK, so, mizer and other law enforcement readers, can we get some freakin’ police dogs to start sniffing and finding the kids with guns walking the streets and frequenting our transit system. It’s just unfreakin’ believable what we tolerate around this city.

    • There is a fine line between tolerance of kids with guns and tolerance of police canine units on metro trains on a weekday evening. The dogs are not miracle workers…they cannot be posted at the top of the escalators and be expected to pick out a gun toter from the crowd. It just doesn’t work that way.
      Stepping up enforcement activity is just one part of a multilayered approach that needs to be undertaken to fight crime in DC. Stiffer penalties for youth violent crime offenders is another step.

      • Well, perhaps they actually can be posted at the top of escalators and once and a while maybe they will detect the ever present gun toting kid. It’s worth a try.

        Agreed about tougher sentencing, and maybe even some real prosecution, and like Chicago is proposing, a murderer registry, and I’d expand it to include a repeat violent youth offender registry.

  • I moved to Columbia Heights from Brooklyn, and lived in San Francisco before that. As a trauma nurse, I often care for patients who have been shot / stabbed / assaulted in our lovely district. While such injuries and incidents prevail across all demographics, in my experience the “knife and gun club” is historically comprised of young, male African-Americans or Latinos. Most are genuinely nice and seemed to be in the wrong place at the wrong time; some I hope I never encounter outside of work when I’m walking in my neighborhood.

    Brooklyn and SF had (and continue to have) their share of crime. However, DC and the social issues that plague it are seemingly out of control. I feel less safe here than I ever did walking in Bushwick or the Inner Mission. To me, it is very challenging to have hard, honest conversations about why these incidents occur in DC because of the class, racial, and cultural tensions I perceive to be more pronounced and hostile here than any place I’ve ever lived before.

    Our city is brimming with government workers as well as a significant number of others whose sole income is comprised of government funds. With a stagnant economy, a looming government shutdown, and many district residents living paycheck-to-government paycheck, I believe incidents like this one will continue with higher frequency if the money screeches to a halt.

    Someone mentioned it on PoP before, but DC’s theft mentality seems to be “if it’s not locked down, it’s fair game.” If you value your Apple products, George Costanza-sized wallets, and smartphones, leave them at home and downsize. Use common sense and pay attention to what’s happening around you. Lock your windows and doors. Don’t carry purses that could double as diaper bags. Avoid get wasted at Wonderland and stumbling home with your earbuds blaring. Keep your stuff in your pockets and carry mace.

    • The reason you felt more safe in Bushwick and Inner Mission than in Columbia Heights is because you ARE more safe in Bushwick and Inner Mission. You lived in two of the safest cities in the country.

      Columbia Heights, and the rest of the neighborhoods that are discussed here, are still relatively safe. But I would say inner mission and bushwick are just statistically safer.

    • It’s because every meaningful attempt to combat crime in DC is met with the racism accusation.

      Yet, every single socio-economic solution has been tried and failed in DC. Even DC’s AA leaders have given up on social solutions to the problems. It’s all window dressing at this point because electorally they can’t do what makes the most sense.

  • I wonder if there were any witnesses? Surely at 10 pm right outside the metro there had to be more people than that one student. Once a week (on a week night) I come home from CH metro at 11 pm and there are still a decent number of people getting off at the same time which makes me feel safer. (perhaps falsely so) I’m glad the student wasn’t physically hurt! I always keep my phone & keys in my pocket just in case I’m in a similar situation so I can drop my purse/wallet and run home.

  • I always put my valuables around various parts of my body (read: in my bra) when I’m out alone like that so if I am held up I can throw my bag and get away and still have my car keys, iPhone, credit cards etc.

  • It seems to me that law enforcement officials are not keeping up with the increased volume of crime that is affecting our city. What exactly are law enforcement officials doing to address this wave of crime? It seems like every other email I receive from on the 3d MPD listserv has to deal with a mugging or property crime. Per the Washington Post, crime, especially property crime, has steadily increased throughout the city. This is a serious issue that needs to be addressed quickly. I dread what is going to happen this summer.

    On personal safety, I use common sense. I have changed my habits and do not listen to music and talk/text on my iPhone while going to and from places. Nonetheless, I think it should be time for us to re-think our gun laws. I believe that access to owning a gun should be made easier for law-abiding citizens. I do think that there should be waiting periods, etc. Currently, you have to go through so many hoops and ladders, that it isn’t even worth the time or money to purchase a firearm. Some may question this idea but, during the ban on handguns in DC, did crime decrease? My best guess would be no, despite the fact of the handgun ban. I however do not advocate conceal and carry, guns should be kept in the home. Congress should also stay out of this local issue.

    I know I am of the minority opinion, but my ultimate point is that, despite the ban, people still are able to obtain illegal firearms. Law abiding citizens should be able to easily obtain handguns, we finally do have that right in DC, but it should be made easier.

    • So more guns is your answer? How does that make sense? Guess who is getting to get your “legal” gun when they burglarize your place or mug you, thus making it an “illegal” gun? I might be cynical, but I’ve never understood how giving more people access to guns will somehow decrease gun violence. It’s still another gun out there for someone to use and it keeps gun manufacturers and dealers in business. Blah blah blah people use them for hunting and protection. BS! People very rarely are dependent on hunting for food, especially not here, and otherwise you’re just killing animals for fun, which is questionable. And for protection? Well, if you didn’t have to worry about someone with a gun robbing you, you wouldn’t have much need for your gun, would you? You’re certainly not helping the situation. In summary, I really f-ing hate guns and wish they could all be magically destroyed and the idea that they should be easier to get is ass backwards.

    • Sadly, because community leaders don’t care or don’t want to risk grandma’s vote (whilst junior’s out robbing folks and no grandma’s gonna give up her baby), and because MPD spends more time driving around than walking beats, it’s going to take a Berhard Goetz event to bring things to a head. Frankly, maybe a few shot teens will send the message out there not to mess with civilians.

      • Even if that DOES happen it won”t deter crime at all.
        I mean c’mon police have killed 3 or 4 criminals this year in DC alone so far and yet crime is rising.

        D.C. AND P.G. county THUGS DO NOT GIVE A FLYING F*CK about anything.

    • Mike: you, sir, are an idiot.

  • How would a cop “walking a beat” who happened to be a block away – on foot – at the time of this robbery have been of any use?

    • if people thinking about robbing somebody sense a police presence in their neighborhood, it will certainly affect their behavior. if they know that no cops ever walk in a certain area of town, guess where they’ll go to mug somebody. common sense.

      • me

        Right. Like the cops that I see on foot or in their car on W St, about 50 feet away from an open-air drug market and across the street from my being mugged. I don’t quite believe that. Thugs in this city don’t give a f about the police.

  • One thing I know for sure: Dick Wolf (of Law and Order) said in an interview on “Fresh Air” that the very worst thing you can do is to challenge the armed person, listen to this 8 minutes in.

    If you dare say, “Oh, yea, what are you going to do? Shoot me,” the armed man will usually shoot and tell the homicide detective later, “Well, he told me to shoot him.”

    So stupid! Nothing is worth your life. Give up items and go.

    • I get all my advice from Hollywood producers. Especially those that produced Miami Vice.

      • Did you even listen to the story? I guess not. In the interview Wolf describes that he constantly gathers information from homicide detectives.

        But that’s okay. I listened for you and he and I have now passed on the information. You’re welcome!

  • After reading through this thread, I can’t help but wonder if the apparent increase in stupid comments is somehow related to an increase in the number of fuckin’ Republicans in CHeights.

    • As a liberal democrat who has lived in DC for 20 years, I resemble that remark. The Hug-a-Thug policy here is enough to drive many of us to consider joining the Rush Limbaugh Republicans, or better yet, forget Iowa, I want to leave this stinking country and all its racial tension and incredibly violent urban cultures with their love of gangs and guns, for someplace where society values something a bit different, like peace and social equity.

    • I had no idea Democrats thought it was fine to be mugged. What you are mistaking for Republicans, dear Asshat,are civilized human beings very,very tired of this constant shit storm of crime. It seems that the streets are teeming with “people” in only the anatomical sense. They have no regard for themselves, their families or society in general, yet they can only get by with what gramma and the District gives them. Kinda like my dog, but he wants your burger, not your iPhone. Oh, and no frigging gun.

  • Personal safety/the ability to walk home without getting mugged is NOT a partisan issue, you idiot.

  • Would one of these thugs PLEASE mug Jim Graham and mayor Grey so that they see what the rest of us have to put up with?!?!

  • With CH on the green line a young thug can mug a yupster and conveniently take metro back to his or her SE slum orrr PG slum without even have to switch trains.

  • Maybe those thugs are coming from the very place you went them shipped out to (SE, PG, far away from CH) and coming back to steal your MacBooks. It’s only like 5 stops, seriously. Stop blaming the people of CH and calling out for people receiving gov assistance to be thrown out. Get involved, write your council rep. report suspicious activity, got to ANC meeting,get organized, and please stop bitching.

  • Okay, Dantonio.

  • Interesting communication lag between Hopkins schools:

    SAIS students received this notification on 3/30; AAP students (many of whom also reside in DC) didn’t receive this message until 11:30 am on 3/31.

    Way to make the AAP students feel even more like black sheep Hopkins students!

  • call me crazy, but this isn’t exactly news to me. i live on the “north” columbia heights / petworth border and i’m signed up for DC crime alerts to my cell. while it’s been a slow month or two (thank you, winter), i routinely get “robbery, force and violence” updates sent to me my phone. like, several a week.

    was this somehow more interesting because it was a SAIS student? and i’m curious how far “leaving the metro station” was….was it IN the metro station? or was it a block or two away from the metro station on the way home?

    while i certainly feel for the victim, we should all realize that these types of robberies happen quite frequently. i imagine it’s a traumatic experience for all the victims, and i personally will subscribe to the “feel free to have my wallet in exchange for not shooting me in the face” philosophy.

    if frankie james wants to go down in a blaze of vigilante robin hood glory, more power to him. go out there and stick up some kids and demand they hand over their weapon. i would be curious to see what weapons charges he’d get hit with (since actual criminal youth never seem to garner any) after robbing anyone.

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